J Penny figured he had a little unfinished business in the Bluegrass Half Marathon, and when he crossed the tape at the finish line first, his job was done.
Penny won the third annual race through the streets of Johnson City on Sunday morning, running the 13.1-mile course in a record time of 1:11:37.6.
“I’m very happy with my time,” said Penny, a 25-year-old former ETSU runner from Jonesborough. “The course is a little bit hilly, but as far as Johnson City goes, it’s about as flat as it can get.”
After winning the inaugural Bluegrass race in 2010, Penny finished third last year, a result that left a bad taste in his mouth. Penny, who says his given first name J is not an abbreviation for anything, ran 1:14 while winning two years ago. Last year’s thirdplace finish came while he was in what he called “honeymoon mode.”
“I wanted to break 1:14 this year,” he said. “I was real disappointed last year. I got back into shape.”
Penny was pushed during the first portion of the race by eventual runnerup finisher Aaron Saft of Asheville, N.C. Saft wound up finishing in 1:13:07.4.
“I wasn’t feeling too good,” said Saft, who owns the FootRx store in Asheville. “I had a tough training week so that was to be expected.” Former Science Hill soccer coach Michael Smelser finished third in 1:18:26.9.
Jonesborough’sAllisonPastorek easily won the women’s overall title, coming home in 1:28:39.6. Knoxville’s Anne Anderson was second in 1:34:31.4 and Johnson City’s Leslie Whitehead was third in 1:35:02.9.
“I wanted to PR on a hilly course,” said Pastorek, who earned her first Bluegrass win in three tries. “It wasn’t my PR, but it was for a hilly course. I felt good. I love running in this weather. I wanted to run hard. I’m training for the Marshall Marathon so I wanted to see where I am. I’m very pleased.”
Pastorek, who along with her husband Steve, owns the Johnson City FootRx store, jumped out to the lead early and was never really threatened.
“There were a couple of guys that I was trying to stay with, a couple that I knew their pace and I tried to stay with them,” she said.
The FootRx team won the relay competition. Penny joined Steve Pastorek, Megan Lederer and Eric Lederer to run the course in a time of 1:20:24 for the relay victory.
A field of more than 700 runners took off from the finish line on State of Franklin Road between the Carnegie Hotel and ETSU. With early morning temperatures in the 40s, the conditions were perfect.
“What a great event,” said Gary Mabrey, the president of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce. We got a record time in the race and we had over 700 runners.”
Next year’s Bluegrass Half Marathon will be put on by the Niswonger Children’s Hospital, according to Mabrey.
“We’re real excited about next year,” he said. “That’s what we do at the Chamber. We start an event, we grow it and hand it off. So it will be even better. It’s real exciting. As a Chamber, we do a lot of events and hand them off. This is one of our better sporting events.”