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Run For Humanity 5K in Attleboro
It was perhaps the most unusual scene ever witnessed at an Attleboro road race.

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By Robert E. Rose
Posted Monday, 22 March, 2004

At the first mile mark of Saturday's Run For Humanity 5K in Attleboro, Greenville, RI's Trish Hillery was holding her own as the fifth place runner. What was more remarkable than her position in an athletic event usually dominated by men was the fact that Kim Thalmann was running stride for stride with Johnathan Ruud and the Providence woman was leading the race. As Thalmann passed through the first mile clocking 5:22, the improbable prospect of a female winner looked very real. Those aspirations were dashed moments later when Medfield's Ruud rushed to the fore and the small lead that he created was enough to hold off Thalmann to win in 16:47. With Thalmann (16:53) taking second and Hillery (18:37) placing fifth, women took two of the top five places. Attleboro mayor Kevin Dumas in his first local road race placed 43rd of the 96 finishers in 24:43.

Hillery was well acquainted with Thalmann's prowess as a runner. Moments before the runners embarked, Hillery, the Run for Humanity defending women's champion, saw Thalmann standing near the starting line. Her presence elicited from Hillery the admission, "She'll smoke me." Noting that Thalmann was still in her Boston Athletic Association attire, Hillery, conceding that Thalmann could still win despite a handicap, quipped, "She hasn't taken off her jacket. At least she could derobe."

The jacket came off and Thalmann was soon enmeshed with the lead group that was comprised of Ruud, Hillery, Sharon's Steve Connolly, Pawtucket's Bill Wardyga, Attleboro's Larry O'Toole, Rehoboth's Jonathan Olivier and John Rilli. Ruud vaulted into the lead but it was Hillery who was the top woman in the first moments of the race. It was a place she knew she could not hold. "My sciatic nerve has been bothering me for two weeks now," she said. "I have been seeing a chiropractor but it really hurt throughout the whole race. But I wouldn't have beat Kim Thalmann. No way. But it was a real pain from my knee all the way up to my spine. I'm 37 so I'm probably getting old."

Three minutes in, Thalmann and Ruud achieved separation as they had quietly jettisoned their pursuers. Two runners all alone was not what they expected to occur at that point. "I don't really know the course," said Ruud, who recently moved from Illinois. "I was hoping there would be a pack of runners up there for me to follow. She was up there so it was pretty much follow her." Thalmann concurred that she "just wanted to go with some of the top guys."

Through the first third of the race, Thalmann entertained thoughts of winning. "I wanted to beat him," she said. "I was definitely doing it as a race, an all out effort but just trying to get ready for the track season. It was something to go after. For a split second; at the first mile I was leading for about 15 seconds but then he came up next to me. It was nice to have him in my sight." The fact that a woman was even with him at that point didn't faze Ruud. "I would have tried to hang on as long as I could but if she beats me, she beats me."

The turning point came moments after the duo went past the orange cones that marked the first mile. "It was a spur of the moment thing," said Ruud of the surge that put him ten yards in the lead. "I felt like I needed to get things going. I really haven't had a lot of racing experience recently cause I'm coming off some injuries. This is my first time back in a long time. I really had no idea where I would be at in terms of time because I haven't raced in so long. I just started training again two months ago. I wasn't able to run for eight months after my senior year in high school. I had IT band syndrome so I was out for a long time."

Ruud extended that lead to twenty yards through the next mile and a half but Thalmann was still in position to make a final strike for the win. "I thought there was an outside chance I could catch him," she said. "Sometime at the end of the second mile I though I was closing on him. But he was pretty strong at the end. He ran a good race."

In the finish area after the race, Hillery was excited with the prospect of an overall women's winner. "I was hoping Kim would win it. I really was. That would be really neat. We don't always get to experience it. That's good! It shows that as women we're out there exhilarated. Women are very good at endurance races so I would love to see that."

Third place finisher, second place male Wardyga, had never experienced a situation like yesterday's race but he was quickly adapting. "Judi St. Hilaire has been up there quite a few times where she has taken off but not two," he said of the having multiple women contenders in a race. "It's unusual that's for sure but the times are changing."



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