The participants in the Lucy Town Half Marathon had already been out on the course for about 30 minutes Sunday morning when David Reinhardt, the event’s competition director, took a seat on a bench a short walk from the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena in downtown Jamestown.
The look on his face was equal parts satisfaction and pride.
“I think Lucy Town has put Jamestown, New York on the map as far as a real running community,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of great races in Jamestown and Chautauqua County, but (when) you get a half-marathon and something like this, people are going to start looking at us as a destination for running.”
From the looks of the weekend, they already are.
For the record, Dan Mueller of Lakewood and Susan Bentley of Jamestown were the top male and female finishers on the 13.1-mile course that originated on Washington Street and weaved its way through the city, the villages of Celoron and Lakewood and back again.
Mueller, a 27-year-old first-year medical student in Buffalo, posted a winning time of 1 hour, 13 minutes, 5 seconds to defeat Jack Brunecz (1:14.04) by just shy of a minute.
“I had a smile on my face most of the time,” Mueller said, “other than when I was suffering.”
Mueller, a 2004 Southwestern Central School graduate, ran with the 29-year-old Brunecz, also a Southwestern grad, for the first nine miles before gradually pulling away.
“I knew he was there,” Mueller said. “I was running scared the last mile or two, just trying to make it happen.”
Bentley, 24, admitted that her time wasn’t her personal best, but she was thrilled, because she just recently began her career as a physician’s assistant in Jamestown.
“I wanted to place,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d win it. I took it out hard and just hung on.”
Bentley’s time was just shy of a minute faster than Michelle Carlson (1:36.09), the second-place female. Overall, Bentley, a 2007 Jamestown High School graduate, placed, according to www.itsyourrace.com,13th in a field that numbered 374 finishers.
Interestingly, Mueller and Bentley have been entered in the same road races many times in the past.
“I’ve been in races with Dan before,” Bentley said. “We have a picture on my bulletin board at my parents’ (house) of me and Dan in the Amy King (5K).”
Mueller and Bentley will likely have another running date next Columbus Day weekend. That’s when the second annual Lucy Town 5K and Half Marathon will take place.
“We’re going to do it again,” Reinhardt confirmed. “This has a lot of potential.”
Journey Gunderson, the executive director of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center, said she met a couple from New York City, who told her that they decided to make the trip to Jamestown to experience all that the home of Lucille Ball had to offer.
“They were both wearing ‘I Love Lucy’ shirts that they bought in the (Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz) museum in Jamestown,” Gunderson said. “They had never been to Jamestown before, (but) they decided to come to see (comedian) Martin Short (on Saturday night), go to the museum and run the half-marathon.
“That warms my heart, because that’s what this is all about, bringing people to this community and showing them why we love to live here. It wasn’t a hard decision to say, ‘Let’s do this annually.”’
A total of 708 people participated in the two races over the weekend, a number that figures to only increase with time. Armed with strong corporate sponsorship, including Univera Healthcare; the cooperation of the city of Jamestown and the villages of Celoron and Lakewood; and the name of the iconic Lucille Ball, the future for the 5K and half-marathon, organizers say, is bright.
“I think we’ve got something here,” Reinhardt said.
There are even some uncanny similarities to a familiar road race down state.
“We wanted to incorporate parts of downtown Jamestown (in the half-marathon),” Reinhardt said. “The New York City Marathon starts in Staten Island and goes across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn. In our race, we started going across the Washington Street Bridge and ended up in Brooklyn Square. It’s a little bit different, but you know what? This is Jamestown. Anything we can do to make it a little unique for ourselves we’ll do that.”