The weather was on the dismal side but Max White, 26, of ALexandria was beaming as he crossed the finish line first after 2 hours 27 minutes 21 seconds of legwork in the 16th annual Washington's Birthday Marathon in Beltsville yesterday.
"I was just enjoying myself out there," White said. "I felt strong the whole way."
As White's father noted after the race, Max had broken his "North Carolina jinx" in this event. White finished second in the Washington's Birthday run in 1972, 1973 and 1975. Each time , a runner from North Carolina beat him.
Carl (Ed) Hereford of WIlliamstown, N. C., who beat White in 1975, dropped out after 18 miles of today's race because he was not feeling well.
"I was running more agressively today than I have in past years because I have found that it is very difficult psychologically to catch someone at the end of this race," said White.
White, who teaches and coaches at the Episcopal School in ALexandria, moved to the front of the pack of 478 starters at the three-mile mark. He shared the lead with several runners during the first 18 miles but by the 20 mile mark of the 26-mile 385-yard grind he had a lead of several yards on second-place finisher James Lears, 30, of Towson Md.
"At that point I knew that if I could keep it together there was no way Lears or anyone else was going to catch me," White recalled.
The marathon began at Lodge Cafeteria on the grounds of the U. S. Department of Agriculture Research Center. The competitors ran three times around an 8 3/4 mile loop on rooling country road bordered by farm-housing and cornfields.
Lears, clocked 2:28:37, said, "I like this course because it doesn't have any real big hills like the Boston Marathon or the Maryland Marathon."
Under Lears' leadershio, the Baltimore Olympic Club bested the other 14 entries in team competition. Mike Sabino, 37, of Baltimore and Frank Pflaging, 44, of Reistertown finished fifth and 17th, respectively to help bring the title to the Baltimore club.
The Washington Running Club was second and the University of Virginia Track Club third.
In fifth place at the end of the first loop. Lears had moved up to third by the end of the second circuit and during the final loop he claimed the second position when a runner from the Naval Academy dropped out.
Lears played lacrosse when he attended the University of Maryland in the 1960s, but since he finished school, running has been his sport.
"I started running just to stay in shape, but in 1973 I saw a marathon and figured I might as well give it a try," he said. He has now run in nine marathons, including a ninth-place finish in the 1975 Maryland Marathon.
Hamilton Amer, 25, of Akron, Ohio, posted 2:30:43 in finishing third. he was running the marathon distance for only the second time.
Amer, who "just wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon" by breaking three hours, started out in 10th place during the first loop.
"I really moved up during the second loop. By the final loop, I was in third, so I just held that position and ran my own race to the finish line."
Ann Forshee, 20, of Ann Arbor, Mich., was the best of the 27 women starters, taking 109th place in 3:07:00.
The Baltimore club's Pfaging, with his 17th place in 2:41:25, was the first finisher over 40 years old.
In the three-mile, run-for-fun race before the marathon, Mike Flemming, 42, of Rocksville passed Paul Schaeffer, 17, of Oxon Hill in the last 50 yards to win in 18 minutes 17 seconds.