First-time entrants win Run With Aimee 5k

MHS grad Harshman, elite marathoner Parton take men’s, women’s honors

By: Justin Feil
   Brian Harshman graduated from Montgomery High in 1981 and his parents still live in the area. But so much has changed that Harshman just had to check out the Run With Aimee 5k course before he ran it Sunday.
   Harshman’s scouting paid off as he took the lead from eventual third-place finisher Mike Slowik just over a half-mile into the race, and held off a hard-charging Gary Hans of Belle Mead to claim the sixth edition of the Run With Aimee ahead of 627 other 5k finishers. Laurie Parton was the top female finisher in 18:40. Hundreds also participated in the One-Mile Ramble that preceded the race.
   "I looked at the results from last year and saw they ran around 15:45, so I knew there was a chance I could win," said Harshman, who now resides in Hamilton. "But my running has been so-so. I’ve been on and off for the last three years with injuries. I haven’t been very consistent. I was hoping to be right about where I ran."
   Harshman finished in 15:55, good for the fifth-best time ever run on the course and just 12 seconds off the record that Carlos Martins set last year. It made for a triumphant return to the area where Harshman’s career began before heading to Bucknell, but that has changed drastically in the 21 years since he graduated from MHS.
   "My parents live in the township, but I don’t do any running out here," the 39-year-old said. "It’s a very different town from when I went to school here. None of those roads were even here."
   Harshman, who is looking forward to competing in the Midland 10-Mile Run or the 10-mile Broad Street Run in the coming month, didn’t have any problems finding his way to the finish line in his first year entered in the Run With Aimee. Neither did Parton, who was also in her first year of running the race, but is no stranger to the elite racing level or to the area.
   "When we pulled in, I thought that I’d been at this school before," the 33-year-old Newton resident said. "I ran in this 12k here, and it used go up this great big hill and then come down here and you’d think you were done and you had to loop around the school. It had a cross country finish. That was seven or eight years ago."
   That race is no longer run, but Parton was happy to return to Montgomery for the Run With Aimee, a race run in memory of Aimee Eve Pollack, who was killed in a car accident six years ago.
   "What a great race," Parton said. "It’s very sad seeing all the Aimee stuff. My fiancee has done it before. One of the kids I train was doing a race so we came here."
   Parton also took an early lead and stretched her way to a 38-secondgap over second-place finisher Erin Heiger of Somerville. Though Parton’s time was well off from her personal best, it was good for fourth best in female race history and better still considering all she’s been juggling lately.
   "I’ve obviously run a lot faster times," said Parton, who is an Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon and has run a personal best of 2:49.00 at that distance. "But I’m getting married in two weeks and we’re buying a house, so I have a lot going on."
   Parton does personal training out of Sussex County and also serves as the New Jersey Herald’s running columnist. In addition, she is the secretary of the Bears Running Club that fiancee Guy Gordon began. She and Gordon co-direct the X-Treme Running Camp each summer. An experienced runner, she’s seen plenty of courses, but was impressed with the layout of the Run With Aimee 5k.
   "In the first quarter mile, that hill was a definite surprise," Parton said. "It was like, ‘Wow, what’s this?’ It was a nice speed bump to get things rolling."
   Parton is signed up to run the Boston Marathon on Monday, but isn’t sure about running it on what will be here 34th birthday.
   "One of my back-up plans is to wear a shirt that says, ‘It’s my birthday,’ " she said.
   And while she’s indecisive about how competitively she can run the Boston Marathon, where she’s been as high as a Top 10 female American finisher, she isn’t hesitant when it comes to thinking about next year’s Run With Aimee, scheduled for April 6, 2003.
   "I hadn’t been doing a lot of running and so many times people get away it because of that," she said. "But this is a great cause and it was a great day to be out here. I loved it. I’d absolutely come back. It’s extremely well organized. And just seeing that table with Aimee’s picture and everything, it was very emotional. It helps people attach that name with a face."
   It is newcomers along with the local area’s faithful that continue to help the Run With Aimee draw more than a thousand participants each year, and they help to bring something good to life out of Aimee’s memory, which is something of a comfort to Aimee’s father, Joe.
   "I think of that all the time," said Pollack, who this year claimed his first age group award in the race’s history with a third place in the 55-59 age group. "If you take a look at all the dollars we raise and can give away, it’s pretty extraordinary. I don’t think anyone on the race committee thought it would get this big.
   "I think we had about 140 Montgomery residents signed up this year, and that’s a pretty good number. We have a lot of people from the surrounding areas and then it’s pretty amazing we have some people from pretty far away. And if they like the race, they’ll be back."
   After their wins Sunday, Harshman and Parton are both aiming to return to try to repeat — something that has yet to be done in the race’s six-year history.
   "It was a real honest course," Harshman said. "It had some hills, lots of turns. It was real well marked. The whole thing is well organized. If all goes well, hopefully I’ll be able to come back next year."