Michael Wardian rounded the corner onto Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda, smiling broadly and waving to the cheering crowd. Making his way to the finish line, Wardian ran comfortably, looking more like someone finishing a training run rather than a race.
Wardian, a 30-year-old from Arlington, easily defended his title at the Marathon in the Parks yesterday, crossing the finish line in 2 hours 32 minutes 13 seconds -- 10 minutes ahead of his nearest challenger.
Elizabeth Feldman, 37, of Chevy Chase, won the women's race in 3:06:44. The winners each received $1,000. More than 1,000 runners turned out for the fifth 26.2-mile Rockville-to-Bethesda race and were treated to ideal racing conditions on a cool, sunny day.
"Wasn't it fantastic?" Wardian said of the weather.
Wardian, who finished second at this race two years ago, ran nearly four minutes slower than he did in winning last year.
"I'm 12 ounces heavier," said Wardian, who got married recently and returned from his honeymoon in Hawaii last week. "I was happier [to win] this year. Last year, I felt like I was really fit, and this year my training this last couple months with the wedding has been a little bit more dicey than last year. I'm not as focused so it was nice to be able to go out, run consistently and win."
Wardian was never challenged. He took the lead by Mile 1 and ran steadily at about 5:40 per mile.
"I just wanted to stay consistent and run pretty even the whole way," he said. "I just run my own pace no matter what, even if there is a big pack -- at least that's what I try to do. I try not to get caught up in what other people are doing."
Feldman, who finished nearly three minutes ahead of her closest competitor, had not planned on running this race. She had signed up for the Chicago Marathon four weeks ago, but became ill before the race. Rather than let her training go to waste, she signed up for her local marathon.
At first, Feldman was hoping only to set a personal record. But as she ran along the familiar trails where she often trains, a new thought entered her mind.
"Once I was out there on the home course, I just wanted to win," she said. "It was really exciting to think about winning a local race like this."
Feldman, a member of the Montgomery Country Road Runners Club that manages the race, had plenty of encouragement along the course. Not only did her husband and three children (ages 8, 6 and 2) come out, so did her training partners.
"I really had a great support team," Feldman said. "I train with a very supportive group of people."