Rowe and Hanson Dominate the 33rd Northern Central Trail Marathon

Two Records Fall At The 6th Half Marathon by Ciattel and Reilly

By George Banker

On Saturday, November 28, 2009, the BRRC celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Northern Central Trail Marathon. The race continues to live up to its origin of the small marathon with quality and volunteers that care for each runner. This is the race where runners come for the love of the sport and not the attraction of sizeable crowds or prize money.

“I’ve always been interested in this race. When I visited my family in Southbury, CT, I trained on an 11-mile dirt rail trail there and wished that I could replicate that in a marathon. Hard to believe, but the NCR trail was even more beautiful than the bridle trail back in Connecticut. My plan was to go out at a relaxed pace and evaluate who was in the race from behind. Then I would try to pick a person or pack that looked to be running a comfortable pace and try to run with them,” stated winner Jon Chesto of South Boston, MA, with a winning time of 2:44:10.

The 33rd running on Saturday, November 26, 2022. The tradition continues each year.

Chesto added comments, “I loved the course. I thought it might get monotonous, especially with the out-and-back, but that never happened. It was scenic throughout, and volunteers were great. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough Gatorade/water stops–but there were plenty. It was definitely worth the trip from Boston. I’m telling my Maryland friends that they have to drive there to run on the course. I can’t say that I enjoyed the final hills, but at least I knew that once I finished them, it would all be over.”

The Northern Central Railroad Trail, officially known as the Torrey C. Brown Trail (named in 2007) , covers nearly 20 miles in Maryland, stretching from Hunt Valley to the Mason-Dixon Line. The out and back marathon course offers a scenic wooded run on a crushed gravel and dirt trail alongside the waters of Big Gunpowder Falls—an idyllic setting to cruise 26.2 miles.

During the first few years, the race originated at the Old Sparks Elementary School. After fire (January 8, 1995) destroyed this historic school, the marathon start and finish moved to mile four on the trail before relocating up the hill to the new Sparks Elementary School.

In 2003, they introduced the marathon relay. For the 25th anniversary, they added an 8K event to the marathon and marathon relay. In 2017, the marathon course was recertified, and its start moved to the beautiful Oldfields School campus, our host site since.

“I was drawn to run the NCR Trail Marathon this year for a few reasons. First, it is late in the fall, making it easier to train without doing long runs during the worst part of Maryland’s summer heat. Second, it is a runner’s marathon – by which I mean that there are no unnecessary bells and whistles – just a well-organized race with a beautiful course and nice friendly people. Last, I also ran the marathon in 2006 (3:15:48 first overall and master) and ran my personal best which of course left me with a good feeling about the race,” stated Lenore Studt of Columbia, MD, finishing in 3:28:53 (2014 25th NCR).

Former Race Director and BRRC President, Charlie Reynolds, passed away in his sleep in August 2001. Reynolds spoke about the race “The main thing is putting on something good for the people.”

In 2004, the race started using the AMB-IT chip timing system. There was another changed made in 2012, with a change in the start from 10:30 am to 8:30 am.

Each year, the top runners chase after the event records to get into the history books. Records are made to be broken, but in the case of the NCR, it will take time and talent. The male record was set by two-winner Robert Marino of Annapolis in 1995 with a time of 2:25:18. Marino has been the only runner under 2:26:00.

The oldest record is the master’s set in 1991 by William Desmond of Baltimore in 1991 (2:36:03). The closest runner to date was James Pryde of Bel Air in 1995 (2:36:41). These are the only two runners who have been under 2:37:00.

The ladies of the Northern Central Trail continue to light the trail every year with outstanding performance.  On November 28, 1998, Joanna Zieger of Baltimore set a mark that remains today at 2:47:25 In 1997 they voted her the Amateur Triathlete of the Year and in 2000 she won Triathlete of the Year for placing fourth at the Olympics in Sydney. In that same year, she returned to the Northern Central Trail to claim her second victory with 2:49:06. 

The master’s woman’s record was set in 2019 by Tracy Dizbela Fredericksburg, VA with a time of 3:02:02.


The marathon had two runners facing off the top honor. In 2019, Graham Peck of Baltimore placed second (2:41:27) and Daniel Rowe of Baltimore placed 6th (2:49:31). In 2021, Peck took first place with 2:38:28 and Rowe was second with a time of 2:40:42.

The two were going to settle along the trail this year and they were joined by Patrick Blair of Catonsville, who placed first master in 2021 (2:41:51) who was in the mix. The race does not start until after the turnaround. Each runner has an eye on their competition.

The race was down to who was having the better day. Rowe had opened a sizable lead which could be matched by Blair or Peck. The move was made, and it was being held. Rowe captured first place with a time of 2:27:46. Rowe clocked the second fastest winning time in the race’s history.

“As a member of BRRC and advocate for local running, I like to support the great local runs like the NCR Marathon. I like to think that by racing it, I am doing my part to build its reputation as a place to go for people to run fast. Also, you’re carbo-loading with Thanksgiving that week anyway,” stated Peck.

Peck adds, “Were you out to be competitive or an easy run? ‘Look slow, run fast!’ – This is the way to be for endurance athletics. I haven’t had the kind of year of running to run a 2:30-2:35 marathon this fall, but I figured something in the 2:40s would be good for the top five. I am friends with the other guys who filled out the top four, so there is good camaraderie there. My marathon PR is 2:24:00 in Berlin in 2015. I ran 2:26:09 in Boston that same year, which was a better run by my own grading. I think 45th place.”

There was an attraction to run marathons, “I knew from my dad, Henry, the first couple hurt A LOT. After I ran my second marathon (NCR Marathon in 2:51 in 2009), I said I wasn’t going to do any more of these stupid things until I was trained enough for running under 2:40 – a big leap! I ran 2:33 at the Wineglass Marathon in 2011 after a lot of triathlon training. Now I’m more interested in doing more of them with less training. I’ve gone under 3 hours in 14 states so far, so pursuing 50 is an idea.”  

Peck continues, “The longer the race, the better. Honestly, I think I haven’t tapped into what I’m best at, yet. I’m running a 100K next summer so will see how that goes before doing longer ultras. I’m pretty good at beer miles too with a 5:58 PR from 2020.”  

Leading from the turnaround for the marathon was Emily Hanson of Cockeysville. Returning from 2021 was third place (3:30:40) finisher Katie Zgorski of Reisterstown, MD. Christine Parker of Baltimore was in the chase.

In the closing miles, Hanson set a demanding pace which was not covered. Hanson captured first place with a time of 3:14:27 (21st fastest winning time). Parker was able to second place with a time of 3:22:57. Zgorski captured third place with a time of 3:23:57.

Emily Sandall of Washington captured the fourth place with a time of 3:28:16. Rounding out the top five was Rachel Wood of Frederick, MD, with a time of 3:28:42.

Hanson joined a select club in winning the race as a master. There have only been six females over the 33 years. The winners (Tammy Villano – 1990, Barbara Bellows–1996, Brenda Hodge–2014, Julie Pentico–2018, Tracy Dizbela–2019.

The second master was Rachel Wood of Frederick, Md., with a time of 3:28:42. Maria Stidham of Silver Spring, Md., was third with a time of 3:33:31.

Half Marathon

After the marathon, the half marathon started. The marathon runners were stretched out along the course. The runners were off to a fast start, and it did not take long for the leaders to make their way through the pockets of runners. It was at the turn around the leaders were identified.

The top runners were chasing the event records. The open record for the men was set in 2019 by Langston Gash of Edgewood, MD, with a time of 1:11:10. The women’s record was set by Melissa Tanner of Baltimore with a time of 1:18:24 in 2019.

Jeff Berger of Bel Air set the master record in 2018 with a time of 1:19:00. Two-time master winner Sherry Stick of Eldersburg, MD, set the record in 2019 with a time of 1:31:10.

The top three coming back down the trail were Vince Ciattei of Eugene, Oregon, Langston Gash of Edgewood, MD, and Tyler Muse of Salisbury, MD. Gash was the 2019 master winner and holder winner (1:11:10) In the closing miles. Ciattei was setting the pace with no signs of giving up any ground.

Ciattei ran into the history books with a time of 1:09:11 and lowered the event record. Gash captured second place with a 1:09:26. Muse captured the third place with a time of 1:10:31.

The winning master was Shawn Loper, coming in seventh place with a time of 1:19:10. Loper has become a three-time winner (2019–1:21:49, 2021–1:21:04). Tanka Magar of Nottingham, MD, was second with a time of 1:22:05. The third finisher was Jicheng Liu of Ellicott City, MD, with a time of 1:24:19.

The female competition was a rematch from 2021 with the same top three females. Meaghan Murray of Baltimore (1:23:10), Caryn Just of Baltimore (1:23:23), and Megan DiGregorio of White Marsh, MD.

The game was ongoing to the turnaround. Murray had established a slight lead over Just, but there were no signs of Murray giving up any ground. Murray captured the victory with a time of 1:22:01 for her back-to-back win. Just was able to hold down for second with a time of 1:22:45. DiGregorio held fast in third place with a 1:26:22. The week prior DiGregorio had finished the JFK 50 Mile run in 7:44:00 (12th place).

The winner master with a new record was Hyusun Reilly of Bel Air with a time of 1:30:27 (5th place). The second place was captured by Karen Smith of Abingdon, MD, with a time of 1:31:41 (6th place). Amanda Lovato of Boulder was third with a time of 1:31:57 (7th place).

DiGregorio comments on after running the JFK, “I started off slow and then based on how my legs felt, I was going to run a pace that didn’t feel too hard. I was still a little tired from JFK, physically and mentally. My knees were still hurting from the Appalachian Trail section, so that made it a little uncomfortable to go fast.”

There were still effects from the JFK, “I don’t put pressure on myself to race all out all the time. I go by how my body feels and that’s what I do in the race that day.”

There is an attraction to the NCR, “I know many people running and like to support the club. I also always volunteer in the morning before the race, so I am already there. It’s a well put on event and a great community race.”

A strategic move was made along the course. I started out in about 10th place or so. I went out slowly to test to see how the body was feeling and picked it up, passing several women in the first few miles. My PR for the half is 1:21:38, in races that I am not tapered and trained for effort. When I train specifically for a race and time goal for that race, it’s all about the time. I enjoy all distances from the 200m-50 miler. It just depends on what I mentally feel like doing. I’ve done a lot of half marathons in the past few years, so now the half marathon is my distance.”

The running streak for Ronnie Wong of Baltimore continues with a finish time of 5:23:32. Wong has completed all 33 years. Wong’s fastest time was in 1996 (3:00:00). Phil Anderson of Bel Air completed 27 years as of 2016. George Banker of Fort Washington, MD has completed 25 years and finished this year with a time of 6:24:43. Monika Bachmann of Upper Marlboro, MD, has 24 completions through 2021. Bachmann is a two-time winner (1992–3:14:30, 1994–3:00:28)
The Club continues to provide outstanding volunteers throughout the entire race along the trail. The Baltimore Road Runners continue to make a difference.  

George Banker of Fort Washington, MD completed his 25th NCR Marathon in 6:24:43.
Ronnie Wong, 75, of Catonsville completed his 33rd NCR Marathon in 5:23:32.
Emily Hanson of Cockeysville, MD ran 3:14:28 to be the 2022 NCR Marathon champ.
Graham Peck of Baltimore, wearing the Altra kit placed third in 2:42:58 in 2022 and won the 2021 NCR Marathon.

Categories: Race Coverage

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: