A number of top runners were expected to run Sunday’s Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg in 70 minutes, including Alexandria’s Patrick Fernandez. The 26-year-old crossed the finish line in 71 minutes, soaked from a rain-drenched race — and he was smiling. Fernandez didn’t care that he didn’t live up to someone else’s expectations. He dominated the field on his own terms.
Fernandez used strong bursts on the notorious hills of the Fredericksburg course to separate himself for almost the entire 13.1 mile race, winning the sixth annual race by three minutes.
Montclair’s Michael Krisman placed second with a time of 1 hour 14 minutes 1 second, while Ryan Carroll of Portsmouth, Va., clocked in at 1:15:31 to place third. Blacksburg’s Laura Garrow was the top female finisher with a time of 1:24:27.
“I wasn’t expecting to be all alone the whole race. I was hoping to be with a pack,” said Fernandez, who is stationed in Alexandria with the U.S. Coast Guard.
“I went out the first mile and I hit exactly what I wanted to, and from there I was able to settle into my stride and just kind of ran my own race from that point on.”
Fernandez’s time was the fourth best in the race’s short history. He created separation by grinding up Hospital Hill, the grueling two-mile incline around Fredericksburg’s Mary Washington Hospital. It is the gantlet of the race, positioned between miles 10 and 12, but Fernandez said he was “mentally prepared for it” prior to running Sunday.
Garrow, the 24-year-old favorite in the women’s field, also expected Hospital Hill to make or break her time. She studied elevation maps of the stretch during her training, and the mountainous terrain of Blacksburg helped prepare her to win Sunday.
“The hill was challenging,” Garrow said. “I’m glad I looked at the elevation course, because I knew it was coming.
“Because you come around that corner, and you don’t know that it’s coming, and all of the sudden it’s there.”
Alexandria’s Amanda Burke was the second woman to cross (1:29:12), while Stafford native Meg Ashton placed third (1:29:22).
Garrow is trying to take the next step in her marathon running career. She ran her first marathon this year in Chicago, she said. Garrow won the Annapolis Half Marathon two years ago, which was a building block in her progression — but Sunday’s race was on another level.
“This is definitely a more challenging course,” she said, “so I feel like this one is a little bit more valuable.”