Despite a most muddy course that slowed his gait, Mike Greehan, Harrisonburg, Va., slogged 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in 1.03:18 to win the second annual Road Runners Club of America Bethesda Chase yesterday.

Although conditions weren't nearly as severe as last year's snow-covered route, Greehan said his recent training under similar conditions helped him.

"I've been running on hills in the Shenandoah Valley to prepare for the race," he said, barely panting only moments after the finish. "They're kind of muddy and slippery also. Because of my training, I knew I could beat anyone on the hills."

Over the first five miles, Greehan ran stride for stride with Ron Martin, a native of England now living in Rileyville, Va. The two runners came up to a mud-coated bicycle path through a one-lane tunnel and Martin, playing the polite Englishman, let Greehan pass through first.

Greehan said that was the turning point. "It was dark in the tunnel and I could see but Ron couldn't. Then there was a hill outside the tunnel and that's where I pulled ahead."

Greehan looked strong as he swept to the finish line on the track of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Martin agreed that the tunnel was his undoing. "I couldn't see too well and there were people walking the other way through the tunnel I had to avoid. It's tough changing direction in the mud."

Martin was officially the second place finisher, although Bob Gray of the @u.s. m/ilitary Academy finished ahead of him. Gray was not registered for the race on time. Martin's time was 1:03:55.

Stephen Gilmore of Arlington, Va., was third in 1:04:01. Chuck Burrows of McGuire AFB and last year's winner, and Bruce Robinson of Silver Spring tied for fourth in 1:05.15.

Greehan, a graduate of James Madison University, is hoping to be invited to the Olympic Trials after running in some major marathons. Greehan said he has never run the full 26mile marathon but is training constantly on hills in the Shenandoah Valley.

The leading woman finisher was Marge Rosasco of Tallston, Md., in 1:15:50. She finished 85th overall in the starting field of 1,110. A total of 950 finished.