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John Bursell knew when to relax and he knew when to hammer the field Saturday as he broke his own course record in the Mount Roberts Tram Run.
Bursell covered the approximately three-mile course with 1,800 feet of elevation gain in 28 minutes, 19 seconds to break his 1999 record of 29:34. Runner-up Dave Pusich also finished in less time than Bursell's old record, but his 29:10 was nearly a minute too slow. Don Eagle took third place in 29:49, followed by Hiram Henry in 30:49.
In the women's race, event rookie Janeann Twelker posted a time of 39:08 to win the division and finish 13th overall. Twelker's time was nearly a minute slower than the 1999 women's record of 38:09 by Colleen Gordon, who wasn't in this year's race. Jamie Bursell, John's wife, took second among women in 44:10, good for 19th overall. Eva Small was the third female finisher in 46:17.
The course started in front of the lower station of the Mount Roberts Tramway, followed Franklin Street to Sixth Street before picking up the Mount Roberts Trail to an observation deck above the upper tram station. Bursell held back on some of the paved hills, then overtook Pusich and Henry on the flats.
"It worked perfectly," Bursell said of his strategy, which resulted in his third straight title. "Dave and Hiram took the lead on the hills, and I was working them when we were running on the flats. I was able to pass them about 10 minutes into the race."
"He took it easy on the paved hills," Pusich said. "He's been putting in a lot of miles this year. I've been nursing a calf injury and I've been trying to get it better. I haven't run more than a couple of 5Ks (five-kilometer races)."
Bursell took advantage of near-perfect conditions to break the record. Conditions were good two years ago when he set the initial mark, but last year the course was pretty sloppy and Bursell's time was more than three minutes slower than this year's clocking.
"I'm in a lot better condition than I was two years ago," Bursell said. "It wasn't nearly as slick as it was last year and you didn't have to stop at all."
After Bursell and Pusich pulled away from the field, Henry had to fend off a late challenge from Eagle, who took things easy in the early part of the race then picked up the pace as he found his rhythm.
"I actually let them get ahead of me on purpose," Eagle said. "Instead of running in the front of the pack when the course narrowed, I pulled back and then started picking people off while I warmed up. With five minutes to go I really started feeling good, but it was a little too late. I saw Dave ahead of me but I couldn't catch him. It was a fun one, though."
"I've been on the icefields all summer, which means a lot of skiing but not much running," said Henry, who won this year's Antarctica Marathon. "I tried to hang with them through the first third, but they've all got good (training) bases. Don had a great second half of the race."
Twelker had never competed in the race before, so she was just hoping to finish. She was surprised with her victory.
"I was doing this just to see if I could make it," Twelker said. "I didn't know what to expect. I was getting really tired. This course would be more suitable for a hike. There's a lot of women out there who are faster than me. It was a nice day for it."
"I was hoping to stay ahead of her, but I couldn't stay up with her," said Jamie Bursell, who last ran the course in 1997. "It was a good race. It was one of those runs where you wish you were in a lot better shape."
The youngest finisher in the race was 10-year-old Ky Clark, who posted a time of 46:03 for 21st place overall. He said he enjoyed the race, but he prefers flatter courses.
"It was hard," Clark said. "I needed water. My throat was dry the whole race. I like the flat ones, but I'll do this again."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MOUNT ROBERTS TRAM RUN
Results from the Southeast Road Runners Club's Mount Roberts Tram Run, an approximately three-mile run held Saturday from the lower station of the Mount Roberts Tramway to an observation deck above the upper tram station. Overall results are listed with the runner's name, age, gender and time.
Finishers -- 1. John Bursell, age 37, Male, 28 minutes, 19 seconds (breaks 1999 course record of 29:34 set by Bursell); 2. Dave Pusich, 35, M, 29:10; 3. Don Eagle, 31, M, 29:49; 4. Hiram Henry, 26, M, 30:49; 5. Paul Dick, 43, M, 33:47; 6. Cory Crossett, 33, M, 35:16; 7. Ken Winniford, 44, M, 35:30; 8. Jim Ustasiewski, 37, M, 37:40; 9. Del Cummings, 24, M, 37:49; 10. Edward Plumb, 30, M, 38:33; 11. Robert Hopson, 38, M, 38:45; 12. Zane Clark, 40, M, 38:53; 13. Janeann Twelker, 48, Female, 39:08; 14. Don Beard, 51, M, 40:35; 15. Doug Weaver, 50, M, 40:37; 16. James Beedle, 48, M, 40:54; 17. Matt Jones, 38, M, 41:42; 18. Paul DeSloover, 53, M, 41:43; 19. Jamie Bursell, 38, F, 44:10; 20. Bruce Hahnlen, 42, M, 44:12; 21. Ky Clark, 10, M, 46:03; 22. Eva Small, 39, F, 46:17; 23. Scott Marnon, 34, M, 46:18; 24. Gary Mendivil, 44, M, 47:56; 25. Cameron Young, 32, F, 50:10; 26. Michael Fleischhauer, 54, M, 50:49; 27. John Blank, 35, M, 51:54; 28. Karen Laquaglia, 46, F, 59:25.