At the three-mile mark of the first Washington Urban League 15-kilometer Home Town Run yesterday, Will Albers, already more than 200 yards in the lead, caught up to the pace car and addressed its passengers: "Why don't you guys stick around, I could use someone to talk to."
Albers, the Fairfax runner who won last months D.C. Marathon, continued in solitude the rest of the way, letting his legs do his talking, and crossed the finish line in 47 minutes 54 seconds, well ahead of the 1,300 other entrants. Robert Hirst, 33, of Washington placed second at 48:43. Ann Thrupp, 23, of Palo Alto, Calif., was the top woman, 57:34.
Albers, 25, broke away from fourth place finisher Robert Rodriguez two miles into the race and was never challenged.
"I honestly didn't think anyone here today could challenge me," said Albers, whose night-before preparation included a movie, reading and a bottle of wine. "My time was a little slow, but I am not in real good condition because of knee surgery (torn cartilage in left knee) in December."
"This is easy," he said at one point during the race, easing through the first nine kilometers effortlessly, shunning water from aid stations and occasionally glancing behind him to check on his lead. But at the 10-kilometer mark (6.2) miles he grabbed a cup of water and doused himself, saying: "I'm tired. This race is five kilometers too long."
Even so, Albers looked surprisingly refreshed at the end. "I ran just hard enough to keep people off my back. If there were some other top runners here I would have put more into it and lowered my time."
Thrupp, three times all-America in cross country at Stanford, said: "This was more like a workout for me. I enjoyed the race, the course is very pretty I went sightseeing." She placed seventh in last week's Bonne Bell on the Lincoln Monument grounds.
Crowds were sparse along the Home Town 9.3-mile route, though about 1,500 onlookers assembled at the start-finish line on Pennsylvania Avenue in the Shadow of the District Building. Along the course, which touched each of the city's four quadrants, police and race officials out numbered spectators.
But the lack of fans did not affect the competitors' outpouring of praise for the race. "They did a good job running things," said Albers. "If this thing was publicized a little more, you'd really have a rocking and rolling 15-K."
It did rock for a while. Rodney Garland, and unregistered runner, broke early and took a 30-yard lead after one mile. He suddenly pulled up and pulled over.
There were several other highlights. Herbert Chisholm, 54, of Alexandria broke a national 15-kilometer 50-54 age-group record, clocking 52:10 in placing 13th overall. Nine-year old Amy Cavanaugh of Washington surprised by coming in fourth among the women, in 65:04.