Runners blaze through Over the River Run|[10/15/06]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 15, 2006

At the start of Saturday’s Over the River Run, a single runner broke from the pack and sprinted down the approach to the Old Mississippi River Bridge.

A few feet behind, at the front of the main pack, Mark Thorne just smiled to himself the way a parent smiles at a foolish child. Then, like a good teacher, he proceeded to show everyone the right way to run a 5-mile race.

Thorne, a 39-year-old Jackson resident, led almost from start to finish and won his first Over the River Run title with a blazing time of 26 minutes, 57 seconds. That was 49 seconds better than second-place finisher and defending champion Rob Oates of Brandon.

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Thorne also is the first winner to break the 27-minute mark since Kevin Phillips ran the race in 26:31 in 2000. Ironically, Thorne finished second that year.

&#8220It was over from the first mile. I was on my own the whole way,” Thorne said. &#8220It’s hard to run like that. You’ve got to push yourself, but you learn to do it.”

Heather Butler won the women’s championship in the 5-mile run, while a couple of Rayville, La., residents teamed up to sweep the 5-mile walk titles.

Kirby Hendrix and Angel Wofford, both from the small Northeastern Louisiana town about 50 miles west of Vicksburg, won the men’s and women’s walk, respectively. It was the first overall OTRR title for Hendrix – he had won four men’s titles in a row – and the first women’s crown for Wofford.

Hendrix crossed the finish line in 47:40, while Wofford was nearly two minutes behind at 49:34 and finished third overall. David Smalley of Florence was second overall, in 49:29.

&#8220I won some age group awards before, but never overall,” said Wofford who, along with Thorne, Butler and Hendrix, won a $250 cash prize for her first-place finish. &#8220I have to admit, the $250 was enticing.”

Not for everyone, though.

Butler, a former cross country runner at Centenary College, said she was just passing through town and decided to use the Over the River Run as a morning workout. It wasn’t until she lined up for the start and an announcement was made that she learned there was prize money on the line.

&#8220My parents live in Monroe and I was going over there, so I figured this could be a nice workout,” the 26-year-old Brandon resident said. &#8220I didn’t know there was cash until the starting line. It was a great motivator.”

Like Thorne, Butler blew away her competition.

Her time of 31:31 was nearly two minutes ahead of Yazoo City’s Annalee Pierce, a 14-year-old runner who crossed the line in 33:18. Butler finished 12th overall.

&#8220I just started out fast,” Butler said. &#8220It was wonderful until the finish. Then it was horrible, when you’re so tired.”

Seth Cantrell, a 14-year-old Jackson resident, capped a cool morning on the banks of the Mississippi River by winning the 1-mile fun run in 6:19. Utica’s Tara Cook won the girls’ 1-miler in 7:05.

In all, 589 people participated in the OTRR, up from 490 in 2005 and closer to the race’s historical average. Race director Jana Webb said about 650 had registered. She attributed the increase to nice weather and an untimely accident last year that kept numbers artificially low.

&#8220Last year we had a wreck on I-20 and we didn’t have a lot of people make it,” Webb said. &#8220Beautiful day, the weather’s nice, it’s a great day to run across the bridge.”