WHEELING - A resident of New York and countryman of Ethiopia, Alena Reta is also no stranger to the Friendly City.
While Reta has had his trouble running the streets of Wheeling, being tripped by a fellow runner and finishing back in the pack in his first Debbie Green 5K in 2007 and then settling for fourth in the Ogden Newspapers 20K in 2008, Saturday he tasted victory for the second time on the Ohio County blacktop.
Taking part in his second- Debbie Green 5K Run and Walk, Reta ran first or second for nearly the whole race before outlasting runnerup Nicholas Kurgat by 11 seconds to capture the men's overall title at the 15th annual "Race For a Reason."
Reta crossed the line in 14:11, with Kurgat second at 14:22. William Christian, who led very early on in the event, settled for third place, 26 seconds off the pace.
Reta also claimed the overall crown at 2007 Ogden 20K, a few months before misfortune in his first Debbie Green 5K.
Bekelecit Bedada, 21, also from New York, broke the tape for the women, recording a 16:23, with Chemtai Rinotukei right behind her at 16:25 and Hirut Beyene third in 16:32.
It was Reta and Christian leading the way through downtown Wheeling before Kurgat took control just passing the WesBanco Arena and heading into Center Wheeling.
Christian remained in control until Reta closed the small gap in front of the Wheeling Post Office and passed him for good turning the corner and heading for home at 26th Street.
By the time the lead runner passed in front of the Sewage Treatment Plant, it was all Reta, who continued to widen the gap before heading down Water Street to break the tape.
"I don't like to wait on other runners and go at someone else's pace," Reta said. "If somebody gets out fast I will go at my pace and then try and pass him.
"This is hillier than I normally like to run, but I just go out and run and normally when I run it is the first time I see the course. But this is one that I really enjoyed and I will probably come back here.
"I was here one other time, but I got tripped by another runner, fell down and got stepped on. I run a lot of longer races, but I like to run the 5 and 10Ks because it helps with speed, just like speed walking does."
The McCrackens of Rayland got their money's worth out of the event with Wayne, 53, winning the Grand Masters for men and wife Diane, 55, taking the Grand Masters for women.
A pair of Wheeling Central graduates were the first local finishers on the men's and women's side. Bobby Herron finished in 16:22 while Kelley Mortakis crossed the finish line in 19:12 for the women. Herron finished 18th overall while Mortakis was 10th on the women's side.
Barnesville native Carl Kondrach, 40, was the first male walker back to home-base, finishing in 27:57 while Kathy Ervin of Quaker City topped the women in 30:49.