NAPLES — As participants prepared for the start of the 2010 Naples Daily News Half Marathon, windy, misty conditions left many runners grabbing for trash bags to use as makeshift ponchos and sweatshirts or coats to wear as the race started.
For Naples resident Bonnie Blanchard, the conditions were perfect. The 45-year-old was competing in her second half marathon in eight days, after battling frigid conditions to run the Disney Half Marathon outside of Orlando on Jan. 9.
“It was 33 degrees when the race started and was pretty bundled up and no clothing came off during the race,” Blanchard said. “I had running pants, sweatpants, two layers of shirts, a jacket, gloves, a headband and a hat.”
An avid cyclist, Blanchard said she started running half marathons for fun, and that she prefers temperatures closer to Sunday’s 70 degrees. “It’s not bad out here. It’s a little damp, but it’s better than freezing cold.”
Helping Haiti: In an effort to raise money for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, Gulf Coast Runners, a local group that helped organize the Half Marathon, teamed with Hope for Haiti to accept donations following the race.
Mitch Norgart, one of the half marathon’s organizers, said he wasn’t sure of the total amount raised as of late Sunday, but knew of at least two sizable donations.
“We had one person give $1,000 and another give a gift of $500,” Norgart said. “We asked people to step up and help out and that did that today.”
It’s not the first example of the group giving to charity, Gulf Coast Runners raised over $25,000 last year for youth scholarships.
“Gulf Coast Runners has taken on this characteristic of giving,” Norgart said. “We’ve been raising money for scholarships for a number of years and I think the spirit of giving is alive and well among this group.”
More from Disney: Just seven days after completing her first ever marathon, Rhonda Clarke accomplished what she once thought was impossible, cruising through the Naples Daily News Half Marathon. Clarke has lost nearly 150 pounds over the past two years and went from just dreaming of running a 5K to finishing a whole marathon. Clarke ran her first half marathon in Naples last year.
Clarke wasn’t the only local runner putting in work on back-to-back weekends, Naples residents Brendan Murphy, Greg Kutz and Sarah Wu all completed the half marathon after posting impressive showings at the Disney Marathon last weekend.
Immokalee coach wins age group: Immokalee's Bernie Martinez went from coaching his wrestling team in the Collier County Athletic Conference championships on Saturday afternoon to winning the men's 30-34 age group in 1:15:40.6. That was good enough to finish 15th overall.
And to beat 2008 Naples Fitness Challenge winner Marc Damon, who finished second in the age group and 28th overall. Damon led area finishers in the New York City Marathon in November, and has competed in the Ironman triathlon.
Estero's Montoya wins division: Erick Montoya, a senior at Estero High, added another impressive performance to his resume, not only winning the 13-to-18-year-old age group, but setting a race record in the process.
Montoya’s time of 1 hour, 13 minutes and 9.2 seconds was good enough for ninth overall among all male finishers, but still left him wanting more.
“I really wanted to get 1 hour and 10 minutes and set a new personal record,” Montoya said. “But I got a little tired late in the race and I just had to keep my pace and meet my first goal, which was to set my age group record.”
Montoya said he’s been training for the half marathon since the close of the high school cross country season in November, and will now set his sights on the upcoming high school track season.
“All of these community races really help me to prepare for track,” Montoya said. “It’s a nice way to keep working when I have time off during the winter months.”
Montoya is still deciding on which college to attend, but added that he’s down to the University of Florida and the University of South Alabama as his final two choices.
Montoya wasn't the only success from Estero High School. Teammates Jose Farnot and Aaron Rojas were second and third in the age group and 26th and 38th overall, respectively. And on the girls' side, Estero's Kacy Smith won the 13-18 age group, with teammates Alex Chura (third), Katy G. Solis (fourth) and Maria Frank (fifth) right behind. Barron Collier's Gaby Paisan was second.
Half Marathon a nice winter warm-up: For 35-year-old Milwaukee, Wisc., resident Matt Thull, the Half Marathon isn’t just a chance to compete, it’s also a chance to enjoy some warmer weather.
“It’s a great chance to come down here and enjoy some sunshine,” Thull said. “We don’t get to see much of that this time of year up north.”
With temperatures in Wisconsin hovering around freezing, Thull, who finished fifth overall, said he had to get creative in his training methods. “I trained by wearing extra clothes so I could simulate the heat,” Thull said. “I’m not sure how well it worked, though.”
More notes: Seacrest Country Day cross country coach Todd Borden, a Barron Collier graduate, took part in the race, calling it a great event for the local running community … The registered field of 1,916 participants is the largest in the event’s history. ... There were plenty of friends and family of competitors greeting the runners as they approached the finish line but once spectator didn’t even know anyone in the race, he turned out just for his love of running. John Thornton, 67, is a longtime Naples resident who said he loves to see people accomplish their goal of finishing the half marathon. “This is great,” Thornton said. “I’ve got a front row seat and I get to see all these people achieve a personal milestone.” Thornton, who said he was an avid runner himself before arthritis slowed him down, looks forward to the event every year. “I get up early and grab a cup coffee and get myself a seat.” ... Early morning storms leg to balmy conditions, something that winner Simon Sawe wasn’t exactly expecting. “It was so humid out here today that it made it very difficult,” said Sawe, who a native Kenyan who now makes his home in New Mexico. “The conditions made it tough especially since this was my first race of the year.”