New kid in town runs off with Distance Run championship
Four days ago, the urge hit Jeff Weiss to travel down to Charleston for the first time in his life and compete in the city's annual 15-mile race.
He's a Pittsburgh-area native and a Ravenswood Middle School physical-education teacher who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials last January and holds future Olympic marathon aspirations for 2016.
A good, hilly workout in Charleston fit nicely into his workout plans.
The 26-year-old Weiss, a Slippery Rock (Pa.) University graduate, ran in second place for the first four miles but accelerated up Corridor G, slipped past Bryan Morseman of Addison, N.Y., and won the 40th Charleston Distance Run Saturday morning, crossing the finish line at University of Charleston Stadium in one hour, 21 minutes, 14 seconds.
On a muggy day that coincided with a West Virginia-Marshall noon kickoff in Morgantown, more than 700 runners competed - an increase over recent years - but fewer than normal spectators lined the course.
At a sleek 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, Weiss carries more weight than most of his diminutive distance-run counterparts, but his long strides, especially as he negotiated the 6-mile South Hills stretch, seemed to offer advantages of their own.
And it didn't seem to matter that the 15-mile course was new to him.
"I had never been in Charleston in my life,'' said Weiss. "I just moved to the area two weeks ago and got a flyer in the mail. So I said, why not? It's something to do. I sent my money in on Tuesday.''
Weiss, who has run a 2:17:22 marathon, had learned from other runners that the Charleston course offered hilly challenges and ran accordingly.
"I went out conservatively,'' he said. "I knew it was hilly in the first six or seven miles. Once you get back in town, it's pretty flat and pretty monotonous.''
If all goes well, he expects to compete as a marathoner in the next Olympics.
"That's my ultimate goal,'' he said. "I'll be 29, stronger, more mature. I think I can make a better showing next time.''
Finishing second for the second straight year was the 26-year-old Morseman, who clocked a 1:24:00 and found the whole experience downright disappointing.
"I kind of thought I ran poorly considering the kind of training I've been doing,'' said Morseman. "I don't know what it is. I imagine it has a lot to do with the weather. Actually, I felt like garbage right from the hill, which was kind of a shocker.''
In placing second last year, Morseman was nearly three minutes faster at 1:21:07.
The third-place finisher, Michael Capriolo of Akron, Ohio, ran a 1:25:51 and, having already run nearly 100 miles in training during the week, also found the hills a bit difficult.
"I knew the hills were out there, but not like that,'' said Capriolo, who was competing in his first CDR. "It was just relentless.''
Weiss, meanwhile, is likely to run again here next year.
"I'll probably make this a yearly occurrence,'' he said. "It was fun.''
Reach Mike Whiteford at email@example.com.