First-time winners Barry-Benedik, Croken win top divisions at Dunk River Road Race
Two first-time participants were the top runners in the 38th annual Callbeck’s Home Hardware Dunk River Road Race on Sunday morning.
Aron Croken of Kensington was the overall winner in 40:52 while Stephanie Barry-Benedik of Stratford was the top female runner, stopping the clock in 50:01 for eighth overall out of 37 runners.
“I thought it was a great race,” said Croken, 33. “It was perfect conditions.
“It wasn’t too windy, it was nice and comfortable. This race has such a history and it’s always nice to do races like this.”
This was the second year for the race’s new course, which is still 11.59 kilometres.
The biggest change is runners no longer have to cross the busy Trans-Canada Highway.
“It seems 100-per-cent safe,” said Croken, who works on a dairy farm in Irishtown. “There are great organizers and people in the right spots, so there is no chance of getting lost.”
Croken said he took a conservative approach for the first five kilometres.
“I didn’t know what to do in terms of hills and how I was going to feel,” he said. “After that, I tried to push myself and finish strong.
“I didn’t want to lose the race in (the) first four or five kilometres.”
Alex Bain (44:46), Eric Petley (44:59), Michael Bergeron (45:42) and Mike Peterson (46:52) also had top-five finishes.
Barry-Benedik, who is an animal health technologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, said she enjoyed the running conditions.
“I liked the fact it was raining. I like running in the rain,” she said. “It was pretty humid, and it was a rolling course.”
Charlotte Gardiner (51:27), Jennie Orr (51:33), Connie Coffin (57:26) and Nancy Nielsen (59:39) rounded out the top-five females.
Barry-Benedik has been running for most of her life. She started running 800 metres in elementary school, and in high school ran the 800, 1,500 and 3,000 metres. After graduating from high school, she moved to Kamloops, B.C., where she started doing 10-kilometre races.
“I thought only athletes did (10 kilometres) and I was kind of intimidated by them, but once I started running fives and 10s I really fell in love with it. Then I started dabbling with half marathons.”
Croken and Barry-Benedik agreed the toughest part of the course was approaching the finish line at the intersection of the TCH 1A and the Dunk River Road alongside the Mount Moriah Mason Lodge.
“Coming up the hill with the wind in your face, you are starting to feel tired,” said Croken. “That was tough.”
Kensington’s Aron Croken, above, and Stratford’s Stephanie Barry-Benedik, below, were the top male and female runners in the 38th annual Callbeck’s Home Hardware Dunk River Road Race on Sunday morning.