Year after year, top-notch runners from Ethiopia dominate the Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon.
There are always some local runners who make some noise near the top of the leader board and, this year, among them was Darien's Michael Johnston, who crossed the finish line in the June 26 race with a time of 1:16:31, earning him a 12th-place result among 3,473 finishers.
Johnston finished third in the male 13-19 year old age category, by averaging a 5:51 pace. The 13.1 mile race, which started and finished at Jennings Beach, was won by Ethiopia's Kumsa Adugna in a time of 1:04:40.
Darien had strong representation in the event. Among the hometown finishers was 41-year-old Chris Eades, who completed the run in a time of 1:37:11, good for 184th overall. Fellow Darien runners Geoff Benson, 41, and his wife, Katherine, 39, ran the race. Geoff Benson finished in 1:37:51 for 192nd. Darien's Peter Pfister, 51, finished in 1:38:52 for 223rd place.
Eades, who has run the Fairfield race before, said the inclines are always the toughest part.
"The hills were brutal. I had forgotten how bad the hills were," he said.
The course included plenty of fan support as spectators cheered and handed out cups of water.
"There was good energy -- there was a good buzz to the race," Eades said. "There were people out there cheering the whole way which is fun."
For Katherine Benson, this was her first big race since running the Boston and New York City marathons in the late 1990s, before having three children. The course was tough, but the fan support made for an enjoyable experience, Benson said.
"It was the hilliest course I've ever done. It was combination of hilly and hot," she added. "That was a great neighborhood for it. That was a nice crowd. It's a fun race."
Geoff Benson and neighbor Peter Markham are among a group training for the Providence Half Ironman, set to take place in mid-July. The event will include a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run.
"It will be fun to do with a group of friends," Markham said.