Sunday, April 26, 2009
Racking Up The Medals Bodnar snags 4th men's title, Persson claims 3rd women's win
By Willis Jacobson Assistant Sports Editor
MARATHON -- It was a memorable morning for the Bodnar family Saturday on the Seven Mile Bridge.
Jason Bodnar, from Candler, N.C., pulled away from the pack for his fourth win in the 28th annual Seven Mile Bridge run, and his wife Jennifer, who missed the race the last two years to undergo treatments for breast cancer, finished a personal best third overall in the women's division.
"I was more nervous for her because she's never had a podium finish," Jason said of his wife after winning the race with a time of 34:06. "For her to come back a year later and do what she did, after all that she went through in the last couple years, it was really motivational. That was a lot more special to see her do that than any of my wins."
Jason, 39, who also won the race in 2005, 2006 and 2007 -- the only years in which he competed -- used a strong tailwind on an overcast morning and easily outran his nearest competition. Andrew Greenridge, 44, from Coconut Creek, came in second with a time of 37:02, and Jon Williams, 40, of Miami, was third overall at 37:08.
"I really have been training hard for one last hurrah," said Jason Bodnar, who wore a kilt to the post-race awards ceremony. "I really didn't have any concrete goals, I just wanted to run hard to honor everybody else who was competing in the race."
Marlene Persson, 39, of Deerfield Beach, won the women's division for the second straight year -- and third time ever -- with a time of 40:54, nearly a minute ahead of the second-place finisher, Nancy Frey, 48, of Boca Raton, who clocked a time of 41:51.
Jennifer Bodnar, 37, finished in 43:48. It was her third time competing in the run.
"I just wanted to beat my previous time, and I was able to do that, so I was happy," she said. "I'm just happy to be out here running and to be able to race. It was a great feeling."
Bodnar said she had just one thought after crossing the finish line.
"I'm glad it's over," she said with a smile. "It's been a long journey."
Fourteen-year-old Jeffrey Tait, of Miami, turned some heads with his overall fifth-place finish. Tait, who has competed in six previous bridge runs, topped his personal best by nearly three minutes with a time of 38:19. Some of the other runners were a little surprised to see Tait's small frame blowing past them.
"I heard a lot of people saying, 'Oh, he's going to die right away,'" said Tait, who estimates he runs in about 40 5Ks a year. "I just kept going. My goal was to get a PR and finish in under 40 minutes, and I was able to do it. It felt great."
Key West boxer Sergi Ganjelashvili, 26, placed second in his age group and was 12th overall with a time of 40:36. He dropped two spots near the end, however, when he did some posing and shadow-boxing for the cameras just before the finish line.
"I was looking to finish in the top three, but I didn't get a lot of time to really train," Ganjelashvili said. "I know I can do better, but there's always next time."
He had a tough time coming up with what was harder -- running the Seven Mile Bridge or stepping the squared circle.
"They're both tough, but they're both fun," said Ganjelashvili, who hopes to get back in the ring in early May. "I like boxing, but I need this, too. If I run more, I can box more."
In all, 1,500 compeitors aged 8-78 raced in the event, which started in 1982.
"This race is not really about winning, or at least it isn't to me," Jason Bodnar said. "It's more about all 1,500 people competing and having a good time. It's a great celebration of the sport and what we do."
He also had a little added motivation to win, however.
"I have a terrible fear of bridges," Bodnar added. "I just tried to get the heck off that thing."