WILLIAMSBURG — Twelve months ago, Chris Kimbrough had no idea what to expect as she lined up to compete in her first USA Track and Field Masters' class championship race. One year later, a confident and comfortable Kimbrough added a second consecutive title.
Kimbrough, a 42-year-old mother of five from Austin, Texas, again pushed past former William and Mary track standout and Masters rival Sonja Friend-Uhl to win her second Fit to Run, Fit to Dream 8-kilometer race Saturday.
"I felt good," said Kimbrough, who finished in 28 minutes, 6 seconds — 10 seconds ahead of Friend-Uhl. "I ran with Sonja for about the first 3 1/2 (miles). She's real tough, and I knew she'd been running well. I wasn't sure if I could get her, but at about mile 4, I just pushed a little harder. She's got that track speed, but I think I've got a little more endurance."
Saturday's event kicked off the race weekend in Williamsburg, which concludes with Sunday morning's Run for the Dream Half-Marathon. The races and accompanying events are fundraisers for the Achievable Dream Academy for at-risk youth in Newport News and theU.S. military's Wounded Warriors program.
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Approximately 1,800 runners competed in Saturday's 8k, and another 1,800 are registered for the half-marathon. The 8k again was designated a USA Track and Field Masters' class (age 40 and above) national championship at the distance and drew more than 120 Masters' runners from around the country.
For race results, go to http://www.runforachievabledream.com.
While Kimbrough was tested, overall winner Kevin Castille was not. The 40-year-old Louisiana native led wire-to-wire, pulling away from a quality Masters' field that included distance aces Chris Juarez and Mark Andrews, last year's 8k runnerup.
"I had planned to run as hard as I can, with or without people (around me), didn't matter," said Castille, who clocked 24:17, nearly a minute faster than Juarez and 1:08 faster than Andrews. "I didn't look back, so I really didn't know how far they were behind me. I was really just trying to run three minutes a (kilometer) and I came pretty close to that."
Castille, who ran a 4:53-mile pace, was 50 yards ahead of Juarez after the first mile and was never challenged.
"I could have run better," said Juarez, a 41-year-old Air Force lieutenant colonel stationed at the Pentagon and a former Marine Corps Marathon winner. "I'm training for a marathon, and I've put in a lot of work this week, so maybe it came back to bite me a little bit. But Kevin ran a great race. Even if I had been at my best, I don't think I could have caught him. This was his day today."
Castille has had many good days recently. Saturday's race was his fourth consecutive competitive weekend.
"I was a little worried about recovery, but I recover pretty well," he said.
Castille already has set U.S. Masters' records (age 40 and above) at 5,000 and 10,000 meters on the track. He was the top Masters finisher at the recent Lilac Bloomsday 12k race in Spokane, Wash., where he edged Boston Marathon Masters champ Uli Steidel and Mbarak Hussein, who won last year's Fit to Run, Fit to Dream race and set a Masters' record in the process.
Castille, who lives in Nicholasville, Ky., quit running for 10 years, but picked up the sport again a decade ago.
"I just lost the love of the sport," he said. "It left a bad taste in my mouth for a long time. Eventually, I was lucky enough to be able to pick it up again, and I've run really well. I've stayed pretty much injury-free."
Castille's ultimate aim is to become a better marathoner. He ran a couple last year, clocking 2:26 in one and 2:28 in another — times that disappointed him.
"I know people would die for 2:26," he said, "but I think I'm a much better athlete than that."
Top-shelf athletes were prevalent Saturday. Among them, Friend-Uhl is in the middle of track season, where she excels. She is nationally ranked at distances from 800 to 3,000 meters, and she just set a U.S. Masters' record at 1,500 meters at a meet at Vanderbilt (4:16.99) — her best time since 2000 and a mark that met the B standard for the Olympic trials.
"I'm not really in 8k shape, but I love the event; it's my home college," Friend-Uhl said. "I felt good today. I'm running 40 miles a week and training for the mile, versus (training for 8k). So basically, what happened is that at about 3 1/2 miles, it started to wear on me a bit. I don't have the endurance in me right now to keep going. Chris is tough. She's a great distance runner."
Kimbrough began running only seven years ago, largely an attempt to get in shape after giving birth and raising kids. When she came to Williamsburg last May, she knew nothing of other runners or their performances and modestly hoped to finish in the top five.
Last year's win served as a springboard. She is the second-ranked runner nationally in the 40-44 age group. She also won a Masters' 6k race last December in Seattle, giving her three total wins. Racing also rekindles the competitive fire of the former small college basketball point guard.
"I knew there was a bigger, better field this year," Kimbrough said. "My coach said there would be a lot more competition, so I thought it would be more competitive. I think that made me a little nervous. I feel like I can run with them. It wasn't intimidating. It was more inspring. I like competing."
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