The Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce sponsored this 13.1-mile event
The sun rose over the Maple City Sunday, burning off a thick and persistent fog just in the nick of time.
That fog gave way to a brilliant early autumn morning ... bright blue skies, temperatures hovering in the 60s, low humidity ... the picture perfect backdrop for an unique athletic event.
Runners and walkers of every age and description milled about in front of Lakeside Elementary School.
Some stretched, others jogged around the parking lot. Still others chatted excitedly, occasionally stealing nervous glances at a digital clock which counted down toward zero.
"I don't think we could have asked for a better day," said Christie Kennedy Augustine, co-race director of the first-ever Pocono Lake Region Half Marathon.
"We're really excited. So many people put so much work into this and it's already exceeding our expectations."
Bob Kiesendahl, the other half of this dynamic duo, was quick to agree.
"We were hoping for around 200 runners and we had over 240 sign up," he said. "That's pretty amazing, especially when you consider this is our first year. I couldn't be happier."
This inaugural distance running event was conceived nearly two years ago and officially announced at a gala press conference in March.
In the months since race plans were unveiled, Augustine, Kiesendahl and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Gillette have worked tirelessly to lay the groundwork for an event all three hope will become an annual tradition.
"We're very encouraged by the turnout here today," Christie said. "We've gotten a tremendous amount of support from the community and we really appreciate it."
Off & Running
Greg Frigoletto took to the microphone at precisely 7:50 a.m.
The Wayne Highlands School District superintendent welcomed everyone and wished race participants the best of luck.
He then turned the mike over to Honesdale High School senior Leah Schweighofer, who thrilled the big crowd with a stirring a capella rendition of the National Anthem.
Following a brief pep talk by Augustine, the irrespressible Jeff "Trackside" Hiller stepped up and started the race with a toot of his trusty train whistle.
Runners burst off the line, setting their watches and taking those first strides along a challenging course that stretched 13.1 miles from Honesdale to Hawley.
Thanks to an unprecedented spirit of cooperation among communities, school districts, police forces, emergency medical personnel and PENNDOT, more than 200 participants made it safely from Lakeside Elementary to Wallenpaupack Area High School.
"We have people from all over the country ... as far away as California," Christie said. "It's really pretty amazing. The response we got is just incredible."
By the Numbers
Stephen Schelander, a 23-year-old runner from Philadelphia, emerged as the overall race winner.
He covered the course in 1:13:52.9, good for first place and a five minute cushion over his closest challenger.
Jeffrey Machak of Mayfield earned runner-up honors, stopping the clock in a time of 1:18:55.2. Paul Bojczuk of Souderton ended up third (1::22:39.5), followed by the first local runner.
Steven Brown, a 26-year-old Honesdale resident, crossed the line fourth overall with an impressive time of 1:22:49.5.
Rounding out the men's Top Ten were: Chuck Thompson (1:27:10.1), Jeff Hugaboom (1:28:02.9), Earl Marshall (1:28:47.2), Steven McGrath (1:28:49.1), Kieran Moran (1:31:04.4), Frank Brown (1:38:01.1).
Meanwhile, on the women's side of the bracket, Lauren Garges jetted her way to victory.
A veteran distance runner who hails from Bethlehem, Garges crossed the finish line in 1:36:19.7, which translated into seventh place overall.
Heidi Schelander of Philadelphia battled her way to a runner-up finish, clocking in at 1:38:01.3.
Rachel Bell of Dingman's Ferry claimed third place with a time of 1:39:08.8, followed by the first local runner, 28-year-old Abby Pittenger of Tafton (1:40:38).
Michelle Mariotti of Old Forge cruised home in fifth (1:42:20.8) and Roaring Brook's Amanda Beck was sixth (1:42:32.9).
Honesdale's own Maureen Ordnung turned in a stellar effort. A multi-sport standout at HHS who went in to NCAA stardom as a field hockey player at East Stroudsburg University, "Mo" posted a time of 1:43:15.3.
The rest of the women's Top Ten were: Jennifer Kiesendahl (1:47:23.2), Elissa Schoening (1:47:47.8), Erin Pollard (1:48:35.7).
Officials at the Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce determined right from the outset that this new venture would benefit a local charity.
This year's spotlight shines on Marley's Mission, a non-profit organization founded in 2009. The sole purpose of Marley's Mission is to help children who've been the victim of physical, psychological or emotional trauma.
Based in Lake Ariel, volunteers use 10 horses in a gentle "equine therapy" approach. The hope is that interaction with these beautiful, gentle and intelligent creatures will help the healing process.
"We're very proud to have this first race be associated with Marley's Mission," Kiesendahl said. "They do tremendous things there and we're happy to support them in their mission."