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The Star City Women's 5K race is set for Oct. 5, and the original runners are helping celebrate it.
Photo courtesy of Jerry Foutz
Beth Dillinger Howell (left) won the first Women’s Distance Festival Race with a time of 7:44 on July 23, 1983. She and other 1983 entrants -- (from left to right) Sandy Andrew, 24:38; Candice Michalik, 21:32; Lynn Wolf, 21:18; and Betty Field, 22:09 -- were reunited in July celebrate 30 years of women’s distance running in the Roanoke Valley. The 2013 race is Oct. 5.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Few females were running long distances 30 years ago when the Star City Striders held its first Women's Distance Festival Race along Wiley Drive.
But the race, held as one of the Road Runners Club of America's events to advocate distance races for women at the Olympic Games, attracted more than 100 women and girls on July 23, 1983.
The thinking prior to that race was that women couldn't endure distance runs or just weren't interested.
Beth Dillinger Howell of Blacksburg won that race in a still race-record time of 17:44. She later qualified for the U.S. women's Olympic marathon trials twice and has competed successfully at many local and regional events since.
Howell recently reminisced about that race when she and other 1983 racers - Betty Field, Sandy Andrew, Lynn Wolf and Candace Mikalik - participated in a July 23 informal fun run/walk to kick off the event's 30th anniversary.
Race director Amy Rockhill describes the Star City Women's 5K Race as "just a fun event" that supports the Star City Striders running club and Roanoke Valley charitable organizations.
Children's Trust Roanoke Valley, which received a check for more than $3,000 from the 2012 run during the July anniversary kick-off, once again is the beneficiary.
The trust is committed to eliminating the trauma of child abuse through prevention and by providing continuous support for children through investigation and court proceedings. The agency is composed of three programs: Children First, the Children's Advocacy Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates. Children's Trust also operates an advocacy center in the New River Valley.
Andrew, a dentist, calls the all-female race a "great event" for competitors and those who are new to running. She was on the planning committee for the 1983 race, and she met her future husband, Gary Adkins, at another race in Montgomery County soon afterwards.
Because there are so few all-women's distance races, "it's pretty unique to have one here," said Andrew, who served as the Striders race director about eight years.
She now describes herself as being "past my peak," adding that she enjoys running but now runs to run rather than to be a faster runner.
The 2013 5K on Oct. 5 bears a theme of girls having fun running, Rockhill said.
Rockhill claims to be a newcomer to distance racing because she's only been running since 1997, when she ran a 10-mile race in Lynchburg on a dare. Until then Rockhill, an orthodontist, mainly played tennis, running only for fitness.
The 3.1-mile October race starts at 9 a.m. on Grandin Road near the post office at the intersection with Sherwood Avenue and loops through the neighborhood, ending in Grandin Village with a celebration. In honor of the 30th anniversary, a prize will be given for the best 1980s costume and an all-'80s band will entertain participants with music and games while they dine on pasta.
For the past five years the race, which attracts about 250 runners annually, has been in the Grandin Road area, Rockhill said. It is one of two major races the Star City Striders sponsors annually. The club's half-mile marathon is held in November.
The Star City Women's 5K is Virginia's longest continually held non-scholastic female-only road race, and the Star City Striders is the largest running and walking organization in the Roanoke area.
Originally held along Wiley Drive, the event was one in a series of races throughout the country held to "prove that women wanted to and could run races," according to a history compiled by Rick Watkins, a Strider member.
It was a year after the first Roanoke women's distance race, that the first women's Olympic marathon was held.
While the Striders race remains an athletic celebration of women as runners, it has evolved into an event that encourages fitness, family and fun. Mothers and daughters, sisters and nieces in all age groups are among the entrants.
Walkers also are welcomed and have comprised roughly a third of the finishers in the past few years, said Rockhill.
A number of the 1983 competitors who still take to the track and street and are familiar among Roanoke Valley runners are expected for the October event.
Andrew has a commitment in San Francisco and said she regrets not be running because it's a special anniversary.
For more information on the Star City Women's 5K Race, call Rockhill at 529-1786 or visit www.starcitystriders.com or on Facebook.
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