Gray, Gaal win Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

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Tropical Storm Hermine Doesn’t Hold Back Thousands of Runners at the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and 5K

Running any distance takes incredible perseverance and courage, but those who laced up their shoes on Sunday to take on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon truly went the “extra mile” by overcoming challenging conditions thanks to Tropical Storm Hermine to race either the 5K or the half marathon.

Despite the gloomy predictions of the tropical storm’s path this weekend, the weather for both races on Sunday ended up as a pleasant surprise with temperatures at the start in the low 70s with partly sunny skies.

Jonathan Gray from Louisville, Colorado blazed the scenic beach-front course to win the half marathon in one hour, four minutes, and 26 seconds. Costa Rica’s Jonnathan Varela Obando was nearly 7 minutes behind in 1:11:21. Peyton Hoyal rounded out third place in 1:11:29.

Gray said afterwards that he came to Virginia Beach to prepare for the New York City Marathon in November.

“Yesterday, the weather was a lot different than it was today,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be bothered by the weather. I knew the work I had to do. I didn’t let it get to me.”

Gray said he had a bad debut experience at the Los Angeles Marathon back in March, but was able to bounce back in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Track and Field Trials a few months later, taking 9th in the 10,000m event.

“It’s been a long road. New York is the next big thing on the radar.” He admitted his experience in Virginia was fantastic. “You guys did one hell of a job,” he said of race organizers and staff. “It takes a lot of work to put on something like this and I know you guys scrambled to do a great job.”

The women’s half marathon was much closer with Ildiko Gaal from Norfolk, Virgina, coming through the beachfront finish in 1:24:37. Twelve seconds later, Virginia Beach’s own Kirsten Lawrence came through in 1:24:49. Melanie Kulesz was third in 1:25:27.

“It was a good race, but it was windy,” said the 25-year-old Gaal. “I didn’t even know if the race was going to happen, so I’m pleased.”

Gaal had never run a Rock ‘n’ Roll race before and admitted that she was amazed with the turnout and said Virginia Beach’s scenic boardwalk was worth a few looks as she was barreling towards the finish. “It’s beautiful here,” she said.

Along with the runners, event staff also went the “extra mile” to ensure runners had a fun, exciting, and, most importantly, a safe race. Due to the high winds, start and finish structures and inflatable signs were not erected. But the bands played on as many musicians and cheer zone staff lined the course to give participants a needed dose of inspiration to reach the finish line.