Debbie Green 5K in the History Books
photo by: Seth Staskey
WHEELING — As much as he stressed to the field of more than 700 runners and walkers to enjoy the day Sunday, Ron Green had trouble, himself, fighting back the emotions.
Green — the founder and race director for the annual Debbie Green Memorial 5K — called the 25th and final installment of the race, which bears the name of his older sister who died from leukemia, “very bittersweet.”
“Ending this race is the toughest decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Green said as he stood along the course watching and rooting on droves of runners and walkers. “I had a goal of 25 years. I’ve been re-assessing (this race) for a long time, and I just want to spend more time with my family.”
The Debbie Green 5K has grown into the area’s premier 5K race because — quite simply — of Green’s desire and passion. And those traits weren’t driven by entry numbers. They were driven by the fact that more entry numbers means more opportunities to help children battling cancer in the Ohio Valley.
“This race has been a big part of my life,” Green said. “I think going out on top is a great way to go out. When I say on top, I mean the race is very healthy, the finances are fine and everything is great with the sponsorships. I never wanted to see this race go down hill.”
Green may have to stop himself in about a week or so when he would annually beginning the process of kicking off the planning for the 2023 race.
“It’s going to be an adjustment for me, but I know my wife and kids will help me get through it,” Green said. “In my heart, I know I am ready.”
Green also saluted his race committee, which includes co-director Terry Whitecotton, who dawned a ceremonial t-shirt during the race that pointed out that he started and finished all 25 Debbie Green 5Ks.
While Green buzzed around the course making sure all of the details were taken care before the 9 a.m. sounding of the air horn, he did take a few minutes to take it all in.
“My mom always said, ‘Debbie would never let it rain,’ and it never rained during the race in 25 years,” Green said, fighting back emotion. “Everyone comes out and takes part of this race to honor my sister and help these kids in the valley. I don’t want people coming here to see me. I just want them to think about my sister and these kids.”
photo by: Seth Staskey
As the Debbie Green 5K grew from just a local race in Benwood to more of one with a national acclaim, the field was more than just locals. Such was the case again for the final 3.1 miles as a pair of Kenyans, who are now based in Michigan, Reuben Mosip and Mary Munanu, were the respective male and female overall winners.
For Mosip, who ran a sizzling 14:18, it was his first time running the event and actually the first time he’s ran a 5K on the road.
“I came to this race because I wanted to know my (personal best) time in 5K road race,” Mosip said. “I’m usually a track guy, but I am switching to more road races. I am happy with the time and now I can just focus on getting better.”
As for Munanu, she etched her name in history as a repeat Debbie Green winner. She claimed the title a year ago, when the race was held in the fall, and added the latest title with a 15:49. That time actually earned her fourth overall in the field.
“This was my favorite 5K race and it’s a very nice event, so I decided to come back,” Munanu said. “I had hoped to set the course record, but I couldn’t do it. It was just a little too hot.”
Sandwiched between Mosip and Munanu were two other Kenyan runners — Peter Lomong and Alexander Lomong — who finished second and third, respectively.
The first American-born finisher was Caleb Keller, who ran 15:57 to finish fifth. The first area runner was Brenden Sands. The 21-year-old, who runs at West Liberty and claimed the Ogden Half Marathon in May, finished seventh in 16:19. One spot — and two seconds — behind Sands was recent John Marshall graduate Mack Allen, who finished eighth in 16:21.
The first male from Eastern Ohio was Brody Cermak. The Dillonvale resident posted a 16:27 to finish 10th.
photo by: Seth Staskey
A pair of former area standouts were among the top female finishers. Oak Glen graduate Kelsey Chambers, who ran at Wheeling Jesuit, was top area female, placing 19th in 19:08 . One spot and three seconds behind her was Union Local graduate Hannah Kemp, who is currently enjoying a brilliant running career at West Liberty. She posted a 19:11.
The 5K walk title went to Barnesville’s Carl Kondrach, who captured the Green title for the third time. He was a walk-away winner, touring the course in 29:07, which was more than seven minutes better than the next male, which was Daniel Stewart of Wheeling, and almost three minutes ahead of female champion Lauren Ritz of Wheeling.
“There is normally great competition here, but a few of my rivals didn’t show up (Sunday), which left the door open for me to win it,” Kondrach said. “I always look forward to this event, and I am happy for Ronnie and the community that’s come out for a nice sendoff for him. It’s tough to see this (race) end because it’s such a great thing for the city and obviously the kids.”