Marathon to benefit from strong local entries

Monday, December 08, 2008

By JIM OAKS

Special to The Times

Riddle, Heider will be in Rocket City field Saturday

The Huntsville Track Club's 32nd Rocket City Marathon starts from downtown Huntsville at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Through this weekend, 1,357 runners had registered for the 26.2-mile race that winds its way south to Green Cove Road and returns to finish at the Holiday Inn Downtown.

"Entries are running a little behind last year, but we still expect to reach our 1,500 limit by next Saturday," race director Suzanne Taylor said. "The economic situation may have cut down on travel for some out-of-town runners, but we are picking up more area and local runners this year."

Two local runners, David Riddle and Caitlin Heider, are new to the race and to the marathon distance but have the credentials for a good finish. Both ran impressive times in the Huntsville Half Marathon last month, Riddle finished in 1:08:11 and Heider won the women's division in 1:20:22.

Riddle, a Bob Jones graduate who ran at Auburn, has been the top local runner in most area races that he has entered and has been training hard for his first marathon.

Heider, a native of Georgia, ran cross country and track at UAH and is now teaching her first year in the Madison County school system.

Top runners

Kenyan Sammy Nyamongo, last year's winner in 2 hours and 27 minutes, is returning this year, but the current top seed is Michael Green a professor at Troy University. Green, a native of England, ran at Troy as an undergraduate and has a recent 2:20 marathon to his credit. His first marathon was at Rocket City in 2001 and he returned to win the 2003 race in 2:20:25.

Jill Horst, 30, who ran 2:49:15 at the Chicago Marathon in October, heads the women's field. Horst, a former runner at Furman University, is also a college instructor. She teaches at Berry College in Rome, Ga. Anna Judd, 39, from Ogden, Utah is the second seed and the only other woman with a recent sub 3-hour time. She ran 2:49:37 last year at the St. George Marathon in Utah.

George DeWitt, 50, of Madison has been the top local finisher for the past two years, running 2:38:28 in 2007. He will be one of the top master seeds this year. Jason Reneau, 32, of Madison is also among the top 15 seeds based on his 2:38 at the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in April.

Expo on Friday, Saturday

Race headquarters is at the Holiday Inn Downtown where the Nesin Therapy Expo will open Friday at 11 a.m. and continue to 9 p.m. in the hotel's Heritage Ballroom. Runners will pick up race packets and shop for running supplies during these hours.

The public is invited to attend the clinic talk to be given by Josh Cox, a 2:13 marathoner now living and training in Mammoth Lakes. Calif.

Cox, a graduate of Liberty University, also had a reality TV appearance on his resume as part of "The Bachelorette" show. His presentation will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Grand Salon Ballroom.

The Expo will reopen at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday for final packet pickup and will remain open until 2 p.m.