by George Banker
Sparks, MD, November 27, 2021—The 32nd running of the Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCTM) Marathon and Half Marathon started at the historic Oldfields School, a college preparatory school for girls in grades 8 through 12. Founded in Baltimore County, Maryland in 1867, this is the oldest girls’ boarding school in the state.
Like many running events, 2020 was a year of virtual events for this marathon, and for the 2021 race, the Baltimore Road Runners Club (BRRC) added health and safety protocols to keep runners and volunteers safe.
Course and Course History
The NCTM is not just another marathon; the race course plays an essential part in the personality and history of the race.
The course is out and back, mostly along the former Northern Central Railroad, one of the first railroads in America and dating back to 1832. For 140 years, trains compacted and groomed what was to become the NCR trail. Abraham Lincoln traveled the line on the way to deliver the Gettysburg Address. On April 21, 1865, the funeral train of President Lincoln left the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station in Washington and traveled along the Northern Central Railroad as part of the route to Lincoln’s final resting place.
A segment of the commuter route was closed in 1959. In 1972 hurricane Agnes significantly damaged the railroad. In 1984 a seven-mile part was re-opened through funding from the National Park Service. The route was converted to a multi-use recreational trail (hard-packed flat surface). In 1989, 12 miles were added.
The top marathon runners were chasing after the event records, men’s from 1995 by two-time winner Robert Marino of Annapolis, MD (2:25:18). Women’s was from 1998 by Joanna Zeiger of Baltimore (2:47:25). No other female had run under 2:50 in the history of the race, and only five other women had been under three hours. The master’s records are held by William Desmond of Baltimore, MD, 1991 (2:36:03) and Barbara Bellows of Ithaca, NY, 1996 (3:04:02).
The male marathon runners were first to hit the trail with Daniel Rowe (2019 2:49:31 – 6th place), Graham Peck (2019 2:41:27– 2nd place), Brandon Rossi, and Patrick Blair of Cockeysville, MD. By the half marathon mark, Blair moved to the front in 1:21:15. Peck, Rowe, and Rossi were trailing in 1:21:58.The lead pack of four pushed the pace on the return. Peck was able to surge, which went uncovered, to gain a slight lead to capture the win in a time of 2:38:28. Rowe held in for second with 2:40:42. Rossi moved up from fourth to third place (2:41:14). With a time of 2:41:51, Blair captured the fourth position and first master.
The women’s marathon was consistent with Sarah Sibert of New York leading through the 10K mark in 39:00. In second place was Kathrine Farrar of Sykesville at a time of 45:44. Katie Zgorski of Reisterstown was third (47:01), followed by Yan Zhang of Fulton (50:01). (In 2018 Zhang placed 4th in a time of 3:26:13.) Going into the half-marathon mark, Siebert held a large advantage (1:24:12) over her chasers, Farrar (1:36:38), Zgorski (1:41:31), and Zhang (1:45:19).
After halfway, Siebert continued to press for the win in a time of 2:49:23. Farrar held for second in 3:12:34, followed by Zgorski, who captured third (3:30:44). Zhang captured fourth place and first master (3:32:11). The second master was Maria Stidman of Silver Spring, MD, in 3:36:38 (6th place). (In 2019 Stidman placed 7th in 3:33:36.)
The following athletes have been answering the call to the rails over the years.
Ronnie Wong is the elder for the NCR with 32 completions. This year Wong ran 5:31:54. In 1996 his best time at the NCR was 3:00:00.
The next in line is Phil Anderson, who has completed 27 NCR (1990 – 2016).
George Banker came in with 24 completions, but did not finish this year. His best time was 3:29:02 in 1992.
Monika Bachmann completed number 24 this year with a time of 4:44:40. Her best time was in 1994 (3:00:28). Bachmann is a two-time winner (1992-4:14:30, 1994 – 3:00:28). Also, a three-time runner up (1991 – 3:16:57, 1993 – 3:16:50, and 1996 – 3:06:31).
The Half Marathon
The half-marathon is in its fifth year. At the start, the male runners traveled from the school down a slight grade to the trail, a small pack in the lead. In the mix were Jeremy Ardanuy, Baltimore, (2019 – 3rd 1:14:32), Shawn Loper, Bel Air (2019 – 1stMaster 1:21:49), and Cody Miles (2019-7th 1:22:20). The out and back course gave each runner a view of the competition. Going through the 10K mark, Ardanuy crossed in 35:18, followed by Loper in 37:58, with Martin Angulo of Cockeysville and Miles trailing Loper by a few seconds. At the turnaround, Ardanuy maintained the lead with 44:15; Loper was holding in second with 47:58, Miles had moved up to third in 48:03, and Angulo had dropped to fourth in 48:42. Then Ardanuy made a move that was not covered and took first place with a finishing time of 1:13:24. Miles took second in 1:20:06. Loper had was third in 1:21:04, and first men’s master defending his 2019 win. Angulo took fourth in 1:22:54 and was the second master.
The women’s race was more controlled. The field included two Baltimore runners from 2019, Meaghan Murray (4th 1:27:29) and Megan DiGregorio (5th 1:27:39). Murray and Caryn Just went through 10K in 39:40. In third place was DiGregorio in a time of 39:59. In fourth was Molly Hyde of Cockeysville (43:38). Murray and Just were holding at the 7.8-mile mark in a time of 49:51. Still in contact was DiGregorio in a time of 50:02. Hyde remained in fourth place in a time of 54:46. Murray broke away to capture the win (1:23:10). Just took second (1:23:23). In close third was DiGregorio (1:23:32). Hyde was fourth (1:32:40). Shannon Lilley was the top master (1:41:53) and Deanne Heflin was second master in (1:42:44).
“I had a goal to be sub-1:25. In 2019 I was sick and still chose to run the race, so a faster time and better placement was my goal. There was a good competition this year. I was healthier and so glad to get to compete,” stated DiGregorio. “I have not been running much during COVID, about 10-15 miles a week right now. So just starting to get back into racing again. I love going to races for the social aspect and love to compete and push myself. I like that the NCR is flat and fast and not that far of a drive for me to go to for races.”
Marathon Top Women
- 2:49:23 Sarah Sibert, 22, New York, NY
- 3:12:37 Katherine Farrar, 39, Sykesville, MD
- 3:30:44 Katie Zgorski, 21, Reisterstown, MD
- 3:32:11 Yan Zhang, 45, Fulton, MD
- 3:35:03 Noel McCracken, 37, Sykesville, MD
- 3:36:38 Maria Stidham, 40, Silver Spring, MD
- 3:40:02 Betsy Lyons, 41, Parkville, MD
- 3:40:39 Oksana Lightfield, 45, Middletown, MD
- 3:43:58 Meaghan Neyton, 30, Richmond, VA
- 3:46:25 Kate Toporowski, 29, Baltimore, MD
Marathon Top Men
- 2:38:28 Graham Peck, 32, Baltimore, MD
- 2:40:42 Daniel Rowe, 37, Baltimore, MD
- 2:41:14 Brandon Rossi, 22, Baltimore, MD
- 2:41:51 Patrick Blair, 40, Catonsville, MD
- 2:48:32 Brendan Lilley, 45, Baltimore, MD
- 2:50:20 Andrew Jackson, 20, Hampstead, MD
- 2:55:16 David McMurray, 42, Baltimore, MD
- 2:58:18 Ken Zimmerman, 54, Chester, MD
- 3:00:14 Samuel Gutner, 39, Baltimore, MD
- 3:04:29 Jeff Abraham, 44, McLean, VA
Half Marathon Top Women
- 1:23:11 Meaghan Murray, 33, Baltimore, MD
- 1:23:23 Caryn Just, 33, Baltimore, MD
- 1:23:32 Megan DiGregorio, 33, White Marsh, MD
- 1:32:40 Molly Hyde, 39, Cockeysville, MD
- 1:35:56 Megan Viviano, 35, Severna Park, MD
Half Marathon Top Men
- 1:13:14 Jeremy Ardanuy, 28, Baltimore, MD
- 1:20:06 Cody Miles, 35,
- 1:21:04 Shawn Loper, 43, Bel Air, MD
- 1:22:54 Martin Angulo, 45, Cockeysvile, MD.
- 1:24:21 Jeremy Stevens, 36,
Categories: Race Coverage