CHRISTIAN’S SPORTS BEAT: Former and Current Hurricane Runners Shine in Huntington Event

By: Christian Deiss

(Huntington, WV) – The sport of running continues to thrive throughout the region and a good example of that was the results from the 16th Marshall University/St. Mary’s Medical Center Marathon, that also included a half-marathon and 5K.  What I found exciting was that the runners crossing the finish line first in the two long distance events both had Hurricane connections.

Winning the 13.1-mile half-marathon this year was 15-year old Justin Belcher, a member of the Hurricane High School Cross-Country and Track teams.  I ran in the event’s 5K race and got to chat with Justin after his victory and wanted to know how he felt about his accomplishment, “I was extremely happy with my performance, especially after being very determined to come back and win after finishing second last year.” Belcher covered the road course in one hour, sixteen minutes, twenty-eight seconds.

Not long after Justin’s impressive victory, Caleb Bowen, was the first to cross the finish line in the 26.2-mile marathon.  Bowen, the Marshall assistant coach for the cross-country and track teams, was also quite pleased with his effort, “It was a new experience because I had never won an event like that before, it was awesome.  I had a feeling a couple of miles in, that this might be my day, but I know in marathons nothing is for certain until you cross the finish line.” Bowen, also a former Hurricane High School cross country and track runner, won in a time of 2 hours, 36 minutes, 29 seconds.

Since Huntington is only 35 miles from Hurricane, both runners had plenty of family and friends on hand to cheer them on.  For both winning a local race was exciting, “I feel happy with myself, I am very thankful for all my coaches and everyone else who helped me out along the way,” said Belcher.  For Coach Bowen, the feeling was about the same, “Winning any race is pretty good, but winning a marathon in your own backyard is special, everyone hears about it and that’s cool.” Both runners also ran for Hurricane Middle School, the school I currently run for during the cross-country and tracks seasons.  

Both runners had comfortable margins of victory, Belcher winning by over three minutes and Bowen winning by a whopping 14-plus minute.  Both runners explained to me when they knew the race was theirs to win, “The other runners held on for a while, but around the four to five mark I started to lose the, after that I just tried to cruise and stay healthy to the finish,” told me.  It was a little different story for Coach Bowen, who took and kept the lead from the start, “I wanted to start quick and ran a 6:10 first mile and from there I surged pretty hard, dropping to 5:40 for the second mile and then from there kept a 5:55 to 6:05 pace the rest of the way.  Around mile 21 in Ritter Park, where my cross-country team was cheering me on, I thought I am not going to lose this one, so I just hammered it to the finish line.” Both runners put a bunch of mileage in preparing for their races, Belcher averaging 55-miles a week, while Bowen ran about 70-miles per week.

The win by Belcher came just eight days after coming in 23rd in the state cross country championships and right after Bowen was preparing his team for the Conference USA cross country championships. So, with the two wins behind both runners, I wanted to know what was ahead for both. Coach Bowen has his sights on another marathon, “I am going to take a short little break and let my body recover and then get ready for the Boston Marathon, that is coming up in April.” Belcher has a break in his future too, “After taking a little break I am going to start preparing for some indoor track meets.  Then start working on the upcoming track season.”

Being an area runner myself, it’s fun to see other local runners do well in their races.  

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