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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Nadine Rager crosses the finish line to win the women's Fort4Fitness marathon Saturday at Parkview Field.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Matt Helm crosses the finish line to win the Fort4Fitness men’s half marathon Saturday at Parkview Field.

Sunday, October 01, 2017 1:00 am

First-time winners rule day at Fort4Fitness

Some surprised by finish, others overcame fatigue, cramping

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Top finishers

Men's 4-mile: Dashon Smith, 00:57

Women's 4-mile: Ashley Case, 25:03

Wheelchair 4-mile: Lazero Rodriguez, 47:56

Men's 10K: John Wamhoff, 33:53

Women's 10K: Liesl Muehlhauser, 39:26

Wheelchair 10K: Alex Haag, 1:01:30

Men's half marathon: Matt Helm, 1:10:33

Women's half marathon: Mariah Jordan, 1:23:36

Wheelchair half marathon: Kevin Weingartner, 1:49:36

Men's marathon: Michael Ridenour, 2:55:54

Women's marathon: Nadine Rager, 3:34:59

Wheelchair marathon: Neal Niezer, 3:40:38

It was a year of firsts for many of the winners of at the Fort4Fitness Fall Festival that concluded Saturday.

Many had competed in previous years' events without breaking through the tape until this year.

“I got second last year, so my goal this year was to win. I'm happy with the outcome,” men's half marathon winner Matt Helm said. “I felt good, it was a really nice day. I went out really hard but I held on all right. It was a good run.”

Helm crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 33 seconds.

Dashon Smith got his first overall win at a Fort4Fitness event in the men's 4-mile in 00:57 after also finishing fifth in the 10K on Saturday in 40:22.

“I've been trying to get a first overall win for a long, long time,” Smith said. “I've been running for over 10 years and came close so many times. (Saturday) was a pretty unexpected day, but it all came together. With about three-quarters of a mile to go, I realized, 'Hey, you got to go, just keep pushing hard.'”

Ashley Case won the women's 4-mile in 25:03.

“I was hoping (I could come in and win), but I wasn't sure,” she said. “I've been taking it easy lately so I wanted to just hit the short race. It's pretty exciting. It makes you feel good about your training, that it pays off.”

For the men's 10K winner, John Wamhoff, it was the first opportunity he got to participate in Fort Wayne's biggest road racing event after graduating from Indiana Tech in June. He won in 33:53.

“I've always seen this race but being on the cross country team, it was always going on when we were in Louisville or wherever we may be,” he said. “It's cool to be able to run the local road race, especially the biggest one here.”

Women's 10K winner Liesl Muehlhauser of South Bend has her share of race wins but had never run Fort4Fitness.

“I'm marathon training, so I don't have much leg speed right now so I felt really good,” she said of her 39:26 finish time. “This had really good crowd support, I really appreciated seeing all the military. I appreciate them, so it was cool to see them out supporting the race. We want to support them, as well.

“There were good bands, good crowds support. I have a lot of good things to say about the town. I'm coming back here next year to work so I'm excited.”

For women's half marathon winner, Mariah Jordan, she used her speed and endurance from her 10K track specialization to get through her first-ever half marathon to win 1:23:36.

“I just started out and got into a good pace and a good rhythm and went with some of the people in front of me,” the Homestead and recent Manchester University graduate said. “I was alone for most of it, so I just paced myself. But the last 5K was really fun, exciting because a lot of people in the neighborhoods were out there cheering with music and water and noisemakers. It was a good experience and a good first half.”

Nadine Rager didn't know she was leading the women's marathon until a few feet before the finish line when she realized the tape was stretched out in front of her.

“I thought that I was leading, but a couple girls passed me at like mile 16 or 17,” she said, “and I thought they were in the marathon race so I thought I was in third, which was still a lot better than I thought I wanted to do.

“I think when I saw (the tape), I was so happy to see that. I actually was doubting myself the last 10 miles. I saw the clock and I was going for 3:45 so to see the clock, I was paying attention to the clock until I was getting ready to go through so that was pretty exciting.”

She finished in 3:34:59.

Michael Ridenour won the men's marathon in 2:55:54.

“I was feeling pretty good until about (mile) 21 then I had to stop and walk a little bit and was kind of slow getting back into it,” he said. “For the first 12 or 13 (miles), I was hitting my pace pretty good and I definitely had good cushion. ... I started cramping up (around mile 21) and once I started cramping up, it was difficult to get back into it.”

The event's organizers see the Fall Festival as their own sort of finish line.

“I'm a runner myself, so I do a few races a year but also volunteer at a few, as well, because it's just as rewarding to give back as it is to run it and set that challenge “ race co-chair Brent Harring said. “The stories that come out of this are incredible every year. Every year ,you hear stories and it keeps you going and keeps you motivated.”

Note:A total of 8,172 participants registered for this year's Fall Festival: 192 in the marathon, 1,681 in the half marathon, 1,858 in the 10K, 2,974 in the 4-mile, 1,103 in the kids marathon and 339 in the seniors marathon.

areichel@jg.net