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A Good Run Undone: Wrong Turn Decides CBHM

  • Peter Geithner, of Hanover, N.H., covers the eleventh-mile of the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Quechee, Vt., on June 4, 2017. Geithner was second behind Mark Weinhoffer, of Hoboken, N.J. The pair finished less than a minute apart. (Sarah Priestap photograph)

  • Zoe Potter, of Quechee, Vt., hands cups of Gatorade to passing runners during the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Quechee, Vt., on June 4, 2017. (Sarah Priestap photograph)

  • Violet Jewett, 5, of Quechee, Vt., cheers on runners from her yard during the last two miles of the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Quechee, Vt., on June 4, 2017. (Sarah Priestap photograph)

  • A sign enticing passing runners is posted in the front yard of a home on the Covered Bridges Half Marathon route in Quechee, Vt., on June 4, 2017. (Sarah Priestap photograph)

  • Runners cruise on Main Street during the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Quechee, Vt., on June 4, 2017. (Sarah Priestap photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/5/2017 12:02:13 AM
Modified: 6/5/2017 12:02:14 AM

Quechee — Two runners finished well ahead of the pack in Sunday’s 26th Covered Bridges Half Marathon and, surprisingly, Rich Smith wasn’t one of them. Smith, a 47-year-old from Enfield, was denied his sixth consecutive victory by two race newcomers.

Mark Weinhoffer. of Hoboken, N.J., and Peter Geithner, a recent Dartmouth graduate from Westchester County, N.Y., had long dispatched the reigning champ when Geithner went astray, crossing the covered bridge in Quechee just past Simon Pearce. Geithner was ahead of Weinhoffer by about 15 seconds when he followed the two lead race vehicles off the racecourse. He corrected his mistake after about 20 steps, but Weinhoffer took over the lead during the snafu.

Race officials seemed unsure why the lead cars broke from tradition by exiting the course nearly a mile from its finish at the polo field in Quechee.

Weinhoffer ultimately finished in 1:12:26, followed by Geithner at 1:13:06 and Elias Tousley of Burlington at 1:16:00.

“I got under the bridge about 20 more steps and (volunteers) were like, ‘You should have gone straight,’ ” Geithner said. “It happens. It’s no worries. … I don’t think it made a difference in the end. I think Mark would have gotten me either way.”

Geithner, an engineering major preparing to take a solar company job in New York City, ran cross country and track for the Big Green.

“This is the first season I’ve been kind of on my own,” Geithner said. “So I figured I’d hop out and do one of the marquee races in the Upper Valley.”

Weinhoffer heard about the popular event from a Hanover local he ran with at Dickinson College.

“It was my debut half marathon,” Weinhoffer said. “It was probably the most beautiful 13 miles I’ve ever run.”

The 24-year-old winner gave his account of the misstep that kicked off Sunday’s home stretch.

“The entire race, (Geithner) maybe had 100 meters on me,” Weinhoffer recounted. “I had him in my sights pretty much the whole time and then, in the end, I just started gaining on him a little bit and he actually took a wrong turn. … After that I was in front of him, and I just finished strong enough to keep him from catching up to me.”

Smith, who took fifth place with a time of 1:16:38, was complimentary of those who displaced him from his perennial spot atop the podium.

“There was just some really good younger kids up there today,” Smith said. “A couple took off early on. Maybe four miles or so, they were gone; couldn’t see them. Then two of them stayed away, and the guy in third slowly was coming back to us, but not fast enough.”

The native of England was just four seconds slower than his winning time of a year ago when he finished 2:26 ahead of runner-up Harrison Little. This year’s field seemed stronger on the whole, with 10 runners coming in under the 1:20 mark, compared with just four in 2016.

“I’m thrilled that it’s a good race; that’s the thing I prefer to anything,” Smith said. “I’d rather finish second and it be a good, tough race, than just win easy. It’s a great time for (the win streak) to end.”

Despite a swift pace among Sunday’s top 10, Seth McClennen’s course record of 1:07:06 from 1995, remained intact.

Jennifer Flynn, 31, won the women’s open division in 1:25:57, ahead of Colleen Harrison (1:27:38) and Alice Grant (1:28:40).

Flynn, who shaved three minutes from her result a year ago when she was third place among all women, lives outside of Boston, but grew up in Pomfret. She’s run a host of half marathons along with two full marathons.

“This one’s my favorite,” said Flynn, who normally enters races with her husband, Ryan. “But it’s my hometown.”

An accomplished marathoner, Harrison ran her first CBHM in 2015, then took last year off to have a child.

“I’ve been targeting this race,” said the 34-year-old Harrison, of Hanover. “I said in the back of my mind, ‘This is a fast one, and I want to come back and run a fast time.’ … I just want to turn a personal-best and this was for me. A big personal best by over a minute.”

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