By Scott Prater
Joe Simpich and Julian Fiorina ran stride for stride for more than 13 miles.
The pair fought through fearsome wind, frigid temperatures and an unfamiliar course to reach the final quarter mile of the Schriever Half Marathon in a dead heat.
Fiorina reached the base running track with a slight lead, but midway through one final lap around, Simpich pulled slightly ahead.
He was still looking over his shoulder when he stretched past the finish line a mere five seconds ahead of Fiorina for the victory Oct. 7.
“I could feel the pressure the whole way,” said Simpich, who logged a time of 1 hour, 28 minutes, 53 seconds. “I think we both ended up running a faster race because of it. We were able to draft off each other during the head-wind sections and I think we both were able to run at our own pace.”
Despite working at Schriever’s Missile Defense Agency, Simpich said the race marked the first time he’d ever run the base perimeter.
Despite the cold and wind, 32 runners showed up, sprinted off the starting line near the fitness center and made a counter-clockwise loop around Schriever. All completed the 13.2-mile course before the three-hour time limit.
Once competitors arrived back near the start line, they had to finish by taking a lap around the outdoor running track in order to complete the prescribed half-marathon distance.
Fiorina, who came in two weeks removed from the Air Force (half) Marathon, was surprised by the open wilderness surrounding the base, saying at times that he felt like he was running out in the middle of nowhere.
“I work at Peterson AFB,” he said. “This is my first Schriever event and this course was a lot tougher than the course at Wright-Patterson. The rolling hills and the wind make it much more difficult.”
Clare Bar, an on-base housing area resident who runs at least part of the course regularly, finished fifth overall in 1:39.39.
“I usually run clockwise, so the only difference for me was running the other way,” she said. “At the 10-mile mark, we turned into a head wind and we had to run uphill to the finish. It was the toughest part of the race by far.”
Bar’s husband, Dan Bar, finished in third place with a time of 1:35.57 while Sam Bessinger took fourth in 1:38.04.
The excitement of winning was short-lived for Simpich, who said he’ll hang up his half-marathon shoes in favor of swim trunks for the next few months as he trains for his first Ironman triathlon competition next summer.
“I’ll be hitting the pool a lot during the next few months,” he said. “I’m signed up for a half Ironman in Boulder early next year and then I’ll race in the full St. George, (Utah) Ironman later, in hopes of qualifying for the Kona World Championships.”
In the mean time, Schrieverites can expect to see Fiorina at the next on-base fitness competition as he said he plans to make more events here in the future.