SEA ISLE CITY - Brian Waters ran as if he had a shell on his back during the 14th Ocean Drive Marathon on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Harrisburg, Pa., resident resisted the urge to join the early leaders of the 26.2-mile race from Cape May to Sea Isle City, instead relying on the steady prerace pace he had devised beforehand.
As it did in "The Tortoise and the Hare" fable, the strategy worked.
Waters came from behind over the final five miles to win the event in 2 hours, 49 minutes, 14 seconds. Brian McNeiece, of Narragansett, R.I., took second in 2:50:28, followed closely by Tom Beekbuysen, of Herndon, Va., in 2:52:02 and Sean Reilly, of Toms River, in 2:52:28.
"Looking at some of the times from past years here, I thought I had a chance to win," said Waters, who is a civil engineer. "There were four of us together for the first half of the race. Some of them went out ahead a little bit, but I didn't want to go after them. I just tried to run every mile in a little under 6:30 and I caught up to them."
The women's race wasn't nearly as close. Jackie Melchior, of Olathe, Kan., was never challenged.
The 42-year-old crossed the finish line at JFK Promenade in 3:05:12, well ahead of 2010 champion Lauren O'Neill, 26, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., who finished in 3:14:55.
Melchior's time was the second-fastest by a woman in the history of the race, topped only by the 3:00:29 run by Jacquie Merritt in the inaugural ODM in 1999.
"Every time I enter a race, I want to win and I want a P.R. (personal record)," said Melchior, who is operations manager for Kansas City Tree Care, LLC. "I accomplished both of those goals today."
More than 1,000 runners signed up for the marathon, topping the record of 904 set last year. Race officials speculated that around 900 started the race at 9 a.m. on Beach Avenue in Cape May. Six-hundred-and-seventy-six of them completed the trek within the official six-hour time limit, though approximately a half-dozen other runners were still on the course.
Unlike in most years, the conditions weren't terrible. Temperatures were in the lower 50s, the expected rain never arrived and even the ever-present wind appeared to be tolerable, at least for those who had previously competed in the race. The biggest challenge were the waves that crashed over the jetty and into the street just before the bridge into Stone Harbor.
"I thought it was very pleasant today," said O'Neill, who competed in her third straight ODM. "It wasn't wicked cold like past years and I didn't think the wind was too bad."
Reilly, a 43-year-old English teacher at Toms River North High School, was feeling good about his chances for the first half of the race until he encountered a chilly crosswind while leaving North Wildwood. That was about the time Waters and McNeiece surged past him.
"When that wind hits you, it just demoralizes the hell out of you," said Reilly, who is scheduled to compete in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon in October. "It was just whipping right through me and I was trying to figure out why I had paid to do this. Maybe it's because I can suffer all day long. That's why I do triathlons."
Waters, who grew up near Syracuse, N.Y., described the head wind as "disappointing," but still enjoyed the course, which took runners through Cape May, Wildwood Crest, Wildwood, North Wildwood, Anglesea, Stone Harbor, Avalon and Sea Isle City.
He was competing in his 17th marathon since renewing his running career about six years ago. Although he ran cross country and track in high school, he gave it up to join the crew team at Georgia Tech.
McNeiece, a 40-year-old fence contractor and track coach, ran his 30th marathon. He thought he had a shot at winning when he saw Waters squeeze some gel into his mouth with six miles left. McNeiece took the lead but only held it for about a mile. With five miles remaining, Waters was back in front and widening the gap.
"I stuck around for a while, but I couldn't catch him once he took off," McNeiece said. "The wind made it really tough. I think we were both lopping along at the end."
In the women's race, Melchior never had a chance to size up her competition. She was in the lead after the first five miles and didn't see another competitor until well after she had crossed the finish line.
She knew she was the first woman, however.
"Once I got in the zone, I wasn't really aware of anyone else," she said. "I just took in all the scenery. But I knew I was first because all the volunteers at the water stations kept me updated and all these bikes kept circling around me."
NOTES: Cape May resident Michael Mader was the top local finisher. He was 24th overall in 3:14:12. Bridgeton resident Krysten Contino was first among local women. She also was 24th in 3:52:24. ... The results from the 10-mile and five-kilometer races weren't immediately available. They will be posted today on www.RunnersAdvocateOnline.com.
Contact David Weinberg:
TOP 10 OVERALL FINISHERS
1. Brian Waters, Harrisburg, Pa., 2 hours, 49 minutes, 14 seconds
2. Brian McNeiece, Narragansett, R.I., 2:50:28
3. Tom Beekbuysen, Herndon, Va., 2:52:02
4. Sean Reilly, Toms River, 2:52:28
5. Jon Rocco, Colonie, N.Y., 2:53:54
6. Michael Coveney, Plymouth Meeting, Pa., 2:56:41
7. Jacob Garber, Hawthorne, 2:57:55
8. David Goff, Worcester, Mass., 2:58:23
9. John Manion, West Chester, Pa., 3:00:17
10. John Callahan, West Chester, Pa., 3:01:19
TOP 10 WOMEN FINISHERS
1. Jackie Melchior, Olathe, Kansas, 3:05:12
2. Lauren O'Neill, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., 3:14:55
3. Polly Harrison, Basking Ridge, 3:18:10
4. May Wedlund, Gresham, Ore., 3:20:08
5. Paula Healey, Pocasset, Mass., 3:25:00
6. Cindy Lewandowski, Sartell, Minn., 3:26:19
7. Heather Thomas, Virginia Beach, Va., 3:29:28
8. Krist Hunt, Roanoke, Va., 3:32:57
9. Celia Kujala, New York, 3:33:45
10. Juliana Everist, Annapolis, Md., 3:33:59
Masters: Reilly; Lewandowski
1-19: Jeremy McDevitt, Drexill Hill, Pa., 4:17:20; Elizabeth Castro, Narragansett, R.I., 3:58:53
20-29: Coveney; Wedlund
30-39: Manion; Healey
40-49: Rocco; Geraldine Scerra, Succasunna, 3:39:15
50-59: Dave Heilman, Mohnton, Pa., 3:17:47; Amy Subar, Potomac, Md., 3:40:36
60-over: Julio Aguirre, Perth Amboy, 3:34:55; Marian Loftin, Mobile, Ala., 4:45:39