THUNDER BAY – Andrew Lehman must like being alone.
The Lakehead Thunderwolves runner on Monday built an early lead and widened it every step of the way, easily cruising to a first-place finish at the Firefighters Ten Mile Road Race, which marked its return as an in-person event for the first time in four years.
The 23-year-old, who originally hails from Alberta, finished in a time of 52:06.9, about five minutes off the record pace set by Olympian Pekka Paivarinta in 1975.
“It was a good race, good racing conditions. My buddies Jett (Dobson) and Nick (Lightwood) were also in the race, so we were all pushing each other during training. It was lots of fun out there and it was nice to see a lot of people out here cheering. There were people every 100 metres cheering. It was awesome.”
Lehman, who competes on LU’s cross country team, finished 2:27 ahead of Dobson, the race runner-up, and 3:40.2 ahead of Lightwood, who took fifth, behind Scott Wiebe in third and Conor McGovern, who took fourth.
“I opened up a gap, probably in the first 5K and then kept it easy up until the hill. Then I just took it out for the last little push there. It was solid,” Lehman said.
“I was hoping Jett was going to stay with me a little longer so we could bounce off each other, but the headwind was pretty rough off the start.”
On the women’s side, Emma Vaillancourt was hoping for a podium finish when she entered the race, and wound up taking the title, in a time of 1:03:45.1, about 44 seconds quicker than runner-up Rebecca Bennitt.
“It feels really good. I was coming in with the goal of maybe top 3, so coming in with the win was a lot of fun today. It was a great day, lots of great energy out on the course,” said Vaillancourt, who originally hails from Manitoulin Island and was making her Ten Mile Road Race debut, having moved to Thunder Bay after the 2019 event.
Vaillancourt said she pulled away midway through the race.
“Around about halfway I was feeling really good and put in a little bit of a surge. Thankfully that was enough to put a little gap on the field and was able to hold it coming in,” she said.
About 505 racers signed up for the Ten Mile, including Thunder Bay Television’s Ryan Bonazzo, who completed the course in 71 minutes, good for 55th place overall.
Race director Herbert Daniher said it was great to be back to a live, in-person race, the event having such an impact on the overall community.
“It’s fantastic. There’s nothing like a live event. Virtuals are virtuals, and it gets you out in the street, but when you get a crowd like this and excitement and enthusiasm, and somebody crossing the finish line in 52 minutes, the fastest run, that’s a good pace,” Daniher said.
“It was a nice day, couldn’t ask for better weather. We had about 500 entrants and 24 relays teams. We’re back and live and couldn’t be happier.”
Full results can be found here.