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Runner doesn't need rank to place second

Some runners just don't pay any attention to the form charts. They run their races to the best of their abilities, letting the chips fall where they may.

Mary Hanlon of the Forerunners Club fits that mold. She wasn't listed among the top five masters women competing at the Oct. 18 First of America 10-mile road race in downtown St. Petersburg.

Bill Orr, the veteran elite-athlete coordinator for both Gasparilla and St. Peterburg's inaugural high-profile counterpart, had a seeding order of Diane Legare of Canada, Judith Hine of New Zealand, Kim Halliday of Deerfield Beach, Carolyn Mather of Georgia, and Marietta Sievert of Georgia among women age 40 and over.

Not that Hanlon is a running machine, but she had a goal of 1 hour and 5 minutes for the race _ a 6:30 pace _ and finished in 1:04:59, a 6:30 pace. That vaulted her into 26th place among women _ mostly invited _ and second in the masters category. Only Legare, from Montreal, who ran 1:01:08, was able to beat her for the $800 first-place plum. Hanlon won $500 for second place.

Hanlon went through the first mile in 6:15 and tried to slow down, realizing what would happen late in the race if she tried to maintain that pace. She passed a woman who looked like Halliday at 2 miles and ran virtually alone the rest of the way, dodging some puddles and risking a path through others to run the shortest tangents.

But the rainy weather, for the most part, didn't bother Hanlon. She treated it as a plus. "I'll take those conditions to heat and humidity any day," said Hanlon, 43, an instructor in the physical therapy assistants program at St. Petersburg Junior College. "We could have done without the driving rain and the strong winds, but everyone was in the same boat."

Hanlon has been nursing an Achilles' injury since last May's six-hour relay event at Clearwater High. She has had to cut back her weekly mileage from the 90-to-100 range to 50. She signed up for last month's USATF national masters marathon championship at Twin Cities but backed out for fear she would reinjure herself at that distance.

She won the USATF state women's masters title at the Disney Marathon in January when she clocked 2:54:26, good for sixth place among women. She followed that with a 2:54:34 effort at Boston in April, good for fifth among masters and a $2,500 award. Last year at the 100th Boston Marathon, the native of nearby Ipswich, Mass., won $5,000 for third place (2:57:13) as she helped the Forerunners five-member open women's team take first place.

The 20th annual Bull Run at the University of South Florida is on Hanlon's schedule for Nov. 9. That's where she set the Florida masters record of 36:22 for 10K.

FIRST OF AMERICA NOTES: Orr said Hanlon was not seeded among the top five masters women because he was unaware she planned to run. "Most elite runners who want a seeded number come through me," he said. "That's what Mazano (Muchapiwa) and Paul Marmaro did. I heard rumors she was going to run but didn't realize she was in the field."

Orr, who predicted the women's win by Joyce Chepchumba of Kenya, reports that men's winner Ondoro Osoro of Kenya followed up with a victory at last Sunday's Arturo Barrios 10K in California in 28:16, the event's second-fastest time.

American favorite Dan Nelson of Eugene, Ore., said he was disappointed with his 15th-place effort of 50:06, good for the final money position but second to Peter Julian (48:20) of Boulder, Colo. "It was just one of those days when I felt like a Mack truck going uphill in first gear," Nelson said.

And four-time Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers was not feeling up to par either as he backed off with a pedestrian time (for him) of 57:04. He set the world age-49 record at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington, D.C., in April with a 52:22, good for second place in masters behind Steve Jones of Wales. Rodgers turns 50 on Dec. 23.

Jim Larson, 61, of Clearwater was the only Pinellas age-group winner, taking the men's 60-64 division with a 1:09:20. Coach Joe Burgasser of the Forerunners did not compete in the 55-59 group because of an injury.

SPOOKY SPRINT: At last Saturday's cross country race at Taylor Park, Lou Stempfer of the Sunshine Running Team won the 5K in 18:26, just ahead of Kris Williams (18:40), who was a second up on Ahmad Mugbel. Tim McClain took masters honors in 19:25. In the women's race, Donna Nesslar of Largo prevailed in 20:39, followed by Hyesun Jenkins, 42, of the West Florida Y Runners in 20:57, and Lauri Reynolds, 39, of St. Petersburg. There were 105 participants.

In the kids 1-mile event, Austin Chambers got his first taste of victory (8:54) and he liked it, reported his mother, Karol Chambers. She won the Women's Festival 5K in August. Austin is 8 and a second-grader at Shorecrest Prep. Winning must run in the family.

ALSO: Steve Wilson, a winter resident of St. Petersburg who won the 1996 Fox Cities Marathon in Wisconsin, dropped out of the race at 23 miles last month. Forerunners Jim Bumbul and Jim Duncan finished the Oct. 19 Detroit Marathon together in 2:52:59. It was a 7-minute improvement for Duncan.

DOWN THE ROAD: Sue Minkoff, race director for the $10,000 Holiday Classic on Dec. 28 at Coachman Park, has lined up Peter Maher, the two-time Olympic marathoner for Canada, to speak at the Dec. 26 carbo dinner at the Civic Center at Clearwater Beach. Six-time World Ironman winner Mark Allen will speak of his Hawaii experiences. For entry information, call 442-7140.