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A challenging race


September 16, 2009
LITTLETON—It's called the Riverglen Challenge five-mile run/walk, but Sam

Brown and Erica LaBella probably had a better name for the course. After traversing Mt. Eustis and several hills with a total elevation of 350 feet, LaBella claimed victory in the women's division and the right to call the race anything she wanted.

"They should call it the Mt. Eustis Challenge instead of the Riverglen Challenge," she said.

Brown captured victory as well but would likely agree with LaBella's moniker for the race, especially after hitting the hills near the two-mile mark.

"I kind of hit the panic zone, just tightening up in the shoulders and legs," Brown said. "I just focused on swinging my arms, lifting my knees, and just trying to take one step at a time."

Brown, 30, of Bethlehem, won easily over Danny Ballentine, of Dalton.

Brown was clocked in 35 minutes, 43 seconds over five miles. Ballentine took second in 38:29.

Brown made his move and got separation over Ballentine roughly two miles into the race on Mt. Eustis.

"We were all sort of running together, the top three. And then I kind of made a move right before taking a left on Mt. Eustis," said Brown, who competed on the cross country and track teams at Hamilton College in New York. "Then we hit the major hill. It's quite the major hill."

LaBella, of Sugar Hill, captured the women's division in 40:34. Maggie Labanka, of Locust Valley, N.Y., took second in 44:10. LaBella ran cross country at Tewksbury (Mass.) High School and then competed in college at

Saint Anselm's in Manchester. She teaches French and Spanish at Woodsville

High School.

The route's final mile included running over a suspension bridge and then the Riverwalk Bridge, past the Littleton Senior Center and on to the finish line near the Riverglen House.

"It was beautiful at the end, going over the suspension bridge," Brown said.

The event also included a five-mile walk, two-mile walk, and three-quarter mile walk. All proceeds benefited the health and fitness programs at the Littleton Senior Center. The runners and walkers were cheered on by a vocal contingent at the senior center.

Annette Norman, 38, of Littleton, was the overall female winner in the walk with a time of 1:06:04. Seventy-year-old Roy Gers, of Barton, Vt., took the overall men's walker title in a time of 1:06:49.

"It was a nice course," LaBella said. "I enjoyed going over the two bridges. I like the hills."

Although Brown said the hills were tough, he said having a September race in Littleton may have elevated the area's running community as well.

"I'm excited that there's a race here. There hasn't been a real fall race at all," Brown said. "I'm was really excited they've started one right around here. I'd definitely like to come back next year. What's great is you've got to go down the other side of Mt. Eustis. You've got that whole downhill, I tried to use it to send me through the rest of the course."

For complete results, go to www.coolrunning.com.

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