In the homestretch of his preparation for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon, Marion Center native Cory Spidell returned to Indiana County in an attempt to trump his third-place finish at the 2011 Fool’s Run.
Spidell, 26, accomplished his goal and then some Saturday, breezing to a first-place finish in the 35th annual Fool’s Run and setting a race record with a time of 32 minutes, 53 seconds.
Spidell, a 2004 graduate of Marion Center who competed on the Lock Haven University track and field and cross country teams, completed the 10K (6.2 miles) at a pace of 5:18 per mile, besting second-place finisher Jonathan Makoczy by 4:42.
Nicole Dann-Payne, an assistant coach for the Marion Center High School track and field and cross country teams, won the women’s race and set a personal-best time with a mark of 39:33.
Dann-Payne, a former member of the Mansfield University track and field team, placed second at the Fool’s Run in 2011 and third in 2010.
“I wasn’t in the best shape when I ran this a few years ago,” Spidell, who placed 11th at last year’s Pittsburgh Half-Marathon, said. “But I’ve been training really hard lately for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon and I wanted to come in and use this as a little tune-up race. It’s a good, hilly course, so I knew it’d be a good workout that would help me get my racing legs back.”
Spidell bolted out of the gates and kept a torrid pace in the first mile to build a significant lead on Makoczy and an additional cluster of contenders.
Roughly five miles into the course, Spidell approached a familiar obstacle, a steep hill that’s roughly a half-mile in length that he scaled time after time while training in high school.
“It was a little bit of deja vu,” Spidell said. “I was thinking about some of the workouts I used to do here. I used to run up and down over and over for hill workouts. I tried to just not look up because when you look up, it just seems to go forever.”
Akin to Spidell, Dann-Payne, 29, a native of London, Ontario, who has lived in Indiana since enrolling at IUP to get her master’s degree in 2007, used her familiarity with the notoriously challenging course to her advantage.
Dann-Payne needed less than a mile to build a sizeable lead on second-place finisher Marilyn Gregory.
A member of the Indiana Road Runners Club, Dann-Payne made the gap between her and Gregory wider and wider with each mile, eventually crossing the finish line 3:56 ahead of the second-place finisher.
“It feels really good. I’ve gotten a little faster every year,” Dann-Payne, a professor in the department of food and nutrition at IUP, said. “I’ve been training harder than ever, getting workouts in at God-awful times, trying to get in shape for the Pittsburgh Marathon, which is on May 5. I’ve never been in this kind of shape in my life. All the hard work paid dividends.”