Run United draws hundreds for fast fun

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Apr. 29—One of downtown Aiken's biggest annual events took off at full speed again Saturday morning, with Aiken Electric Cooperative holding Run United, the series of runs to benefit United Way of Aiken County.

Among the hundreds of runners, joggers and walkers on hand for the fundraiser was retired banker Richard Harmon, with Security Federal Bank's board of directors. He handled the five-kilometer event.

"I talked to Keyatta Priester, at Aiken Electric Cooperative, and she said they had about 900 people enter," he said, referring to the four options: a half-marathon (13.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), 5K (3.1 miles) and a one-mile trot for kids.

"It was delightful," he added. "The weather was just ideal — around 60 degrees, not a lot of humidity — and it seems like every year, it just gets better. There were just a lot of folks on the streets as you went along, and a lot of U.S. flags, and as a veteran, it made me feel great to see all that."

This year's participation included "the largest amount of registrants we've had to date," according to Daniele Ligons, AEC's marketing manager.

The fastest feet of the morning may have been those of Stephen Martinez, who now lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia, as he took top overall honors in the half-marathon, covering the distance in one hour, 11 minutes and 55 seconds, meaning no competitors were in sight as he crossed the finish line, in the Newberry Street festival area.

Conditions were "no problem," according to Martinez, who assessed the heat as a familiar challenge, considering his background. The terrain was "nice and flat," he added.

"I mean, not a single hill in sight in the whole course ... I don't think I would have survived if there were hills, because of the cramping. It was good."

He also gave a thumbs-up review to the host community. "This is an awesome town. I'd never been here. Nice little small town. Really cozy, really friendly. I like it here, and not too far of a drive from Atlanta."

Martinez laughingly noted that some of the volunteers at water stations may have been caught slightly off-guard and possibly were not expecting to see a runner arrive quite as quickly as he did.

Martinez, who sharpened his skills in the track and field program at the University of Georgia, had a fellow Bulldog finishing a few minutes behind him: Samantha Drop, who ran cross country for Georgia and hails from Durham, Connecticut. She covered the distance in one hour, 15 minutes and 46 seconds — the fastest among women in the half-marathon.

First place in the 10K went to North Augusta resident Curtis Wilson, at 42:32, and the fastest woman was Aiken resident Brianna Blacha, at 45:20.

Dantal Stewart, of Grovetown, Georgia, was fastest in the 5K. He finished at 18:43. Aiken resident Emily Russell took top honors in the women's division, at 23:17.

Aiken Department of Public Safety, in keeping with tradition, closed sections of several roads to traffic, with Newberry Street, Two Notch Road, South Boundary Avenue and Powderhouse Road being affected most.

Joining Aiken Electric Cooperative among the sponsors were such organizations as Gold Cross, Newberry Hall, Aiken Regional Medical Centers, Breezeline, Apollon Wealth Management, Cart Mart and and Nothing Bundt Cakes.