“I was just trying to break 21 minutes,” Vicki Lang said about her performance in winning the women’s division at the Penguin Pace 5K. “That’s about all that I can do right now.” She need not have been so modest. On a frigid morning (coldest in the race’s history at 20F) and a very hilly course, she had just beaten the second place woman, Lisa Fichman, by 45 seconds. “The last hill did me in!” Vicki admitted, even though she was so far ahead that Lisa couldn’t see her.
Howard County Runner of the Year (2006) Carlos Renjifo handled the men’s competition by a similar margin, beating second place Conrad Orloff by another 45 seconds. Carlos won the race the year before and often trains on the hilly roads of Columbia’s Longfellow community, where the race took place. Immediately after he finished, Carlos went out for a “cool down” run.
The real competition took place among the master runners (over 40 years old). On the men’s side, Stuart Pineo outlasted Martin Goode, who was recently inducted into the Strider Hall of Fame. Stuart usually runs in his bare feet (!), but the cold conditions induced him to wear shoes this time. Among the masters’ women, Lisa Fichman started a few seconds late and found herself chasing Dorothy Beckett up the last long hill on Hesperus Drive. Lisa didn’t panic and overhauled her competitor to claim the master’s title (and second woman overall, too).
This year’s Penguin Pace contained at least two stories not related to winning awards. Drawing their motivation from John Bingham’s “Penguin Column” in Runners World magazine, Penguins from all over the United States have adopted Columbia, MD’s, Penguin Pace as their official race. The Penguins’ motto is “no need for speed,” so the hilly course is custom-made for them. Of special interest to the Penguins was Liz Ittman, who arose from her hospital bed in Tempe, AZ, made the trek to Columbia, and walked the entire 3.1 miles. Just behind her was the Striders’ own Arnat Vale, who completed the course on crutches. He had injured his calf running a recent marathon but would not be denied. “Well, I pre-registered a long time ago,” he explained.
The Penguin Pace said farewell this year to its storied announcer, Miles “The Voice” Weigold, who is retiring to Tucson, AZ. In honor of his retirement, the race retired the number 1 and presented Miles with a framed race number. “We will retire this number and no one will ever wear it again at Penguin Pace,” said race director Arleen Dinneen.
331 completed the Penguin Pace, which is staged every winter by the Howard County Striders. Overall and Age group winners received signature Penguin Pace knit caps, and all participants received really thick, warm sweatshirts in which they could kick back and watch the Superbowl later in the day. Not only that, but all participants enjoyed the post-race brunch catered by the Elkridge Furnace Inn (c. 1744).
by Jim Carbary