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Sullivan Wins Eastern States 20 Mile in a Breeze

By Don Allison

This pouch got a ride at
this year's Eastern States 20-Miler
photo Jim Rhoades

By almost all accounts, the start of the 2002 Eastern States 20 Mile looked exactly like the start of the 2001 race: sunny skies, mild temperatures, and more than 500 runners ready to make the scenic three-state, seven-town, 20-mile journey from Kittery, Maine to Salisbury Massachusetts, along the New Hampshire Seacoast.

Looks can be deceiving however. An unseen, silent foe awaited the field. While not howling, and only faintly felt at the start, a pesky headwind proved to be a serious challenge to the runners as the miles progressed. Although not as extreme as excessive heat, cold, or precipitation, a persistent headwind can be just as tough to deal with. Surely the 521 athletes who reached the finish line at Eastern States would agree.

Such conditions can prove to be even more punishing on the frontrunners, as these fast folks do not have the luxury of packs of other runners to buffet the breeze. That was the case for Tom St. Germaine and Justin Cake. The pair shot out to a 50-yard lead before reaching the one-mile mark at the Memorial Bridge, leaving the state of Maine heading into Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Eschewing the team tactics of alternating one running into the wind while the other drafted close behind, the duo ran side by side, as if to taunt the weather gods, clicking off the early miles at 5:45 per-mile pace.

Meanwhile, veteran Jim Garcia and young Matt Sullivan ran together, about 100 meters in arrears. Just before the halfway mark, St. Germaine forced the issue, reaching 10 miles in 58:41, alone in front. Cake slowly faded, as Garcia and Sullivan moved closer. By the scenic overlook in North Hampton at 13 miles, St. Germaine was also passed and left behind, leaving the lead to the smooth striding youngster and the hard working veteran. They ran into Hampton Beach at 17 miles together, but it was Sullivan who departed the summer resort town at mile 18 first, running smartly up and over the Seabrook Bridge with a clear margin.

The final two miles past the wide open marshlands of Seabrook were the toughest of the race for almost all of the runners, but Sullivan actually increased his tempo at that stage of the contest, claiming victory by virtue of becoming the first to cross the state border into Massachusetts. Running the final two miles at 5:50 pace, Sullivan's final time was 1:59:25. Fast-closing Peter Sedgwick was second in 1:59:42, while Garcia captured third in 2:00:42. The race bodes well for Sullivan, who is aiming for the Boston Marathon, three weeks hence. "I'm feeling pretty strong now; I'm, looking for a breakthrough," he commented after the race.

The women's race turned into a master's performance, as the top two ladies to finish were all over the age of 40. Winner Nancy Corsaro set a women's master's course record on this tough day, in coming in 20th overall in 2:17:22. "I had no idea I was even near the lead (of the women's race)" said Corsaro afterwards, adding, "it was a pretty tough day out there." Katonah, New York's Jane Lundy was second in 2:20:24, while 26-year-old Megan Parker from nearby Portsmouth rounded out the top three.

For more than two hours after the leaders had completed their races, hundreds of others made it to Massachusetts, having successfully battled a silent but most difficult opponent.

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