Run the Reagan: Dashing through the snow

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

SNELLVILLE -- A colony of snowmen watched Gwinnett's trophy road race slosh by Saturday, stoic spectators on a worst-case-scenario morning.

Luckily for leaders of Run the Reagan's 15th incarnation, about 2,500 runners with intestinal fortitude -- and spandex by the mile -- joined them.

Short of a tornado, hurricane shrapnel or rogue alien invasion, the 3-or-so inches of mysterious cold stuff that fell Friday was a race organizer's worst nightmare. For chief shot-caller Skip Breeser, who reported to Ronald Reagan Parkway at 3:30 a.m. to find a treacherous serpent of ice, improvisation was the order of the day.

All races -- a half-marathon, 10K, 5K and Fun Run -- were pushed back four hours to noon, allowing temps to crawl toward the freezing point and that pesky ice to scat.

"We got really lucky considering how iced over this road was," Breeser said. "Prior to 10 a.m., it looked like we had no chance whatsoever."

An alert splash on the race's Web site about the delay worked, for the most part, said organizer Tom Mayfield. Some vendors canceled, and only one inflatable -- a giant, cushy slide anchored by snow-boulders -- could join the Family Festival.

About 200 brave souls registered Saturday morning.

The half-marathon winner -- and quite possibly the day's least clothed man -- Sammy Nyamongo, 34, of Atlanta, had a leg up on the competition: the professional runner had been training for high-altitude races this winter in Denver.

Posting a 1:13:55 time in frigid, piercing wind was a breeze, he said. Only a few scattered ice patches hid under bridges

"This was nothing," said Nyamongo, a three-time Reagan winner. "I came here to win. I knew I was going to win. That's what I did."

Decatur resident Kathy Allen, 10K champion in the 60-64 age group, was a little more peeved at Mother Nature.

"I don't like running in the cold," Allen said, "but I do run a lot."

Prior to Saturday, the race had continued to grow despite bouts with inclement weather, topping at 3,200 participants last year. The day's volunteer count, about 250, was intentionally trimmed back from last year, Mayfield said.

"We feel like we can get by with a few less," he said. "We're being real careful to manage the cost of the race."

Translation: Complimentary T-shirts provided to volunteers aren't as cheap as their labor.

At the heart of the county's largest road race, reinstituted five years ago after a hiatus, is philanthropy. Runner entry fees support two Gwinnett Charities -- Young Life, a youth support group, and the Gwinnett Community Clinic, a reprieve for families needing medical services.

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