Bridget Abbatiello grew up running the Great Train Race and YMCA Turkey Trot before starring as a cross country runner at Stafford High School. So even though Sunday marked Abbatiello’s first Marine Corps Historic Half, the Fredericksburg native felt perfectly at home navigating the 13.1-mile course.
“I kind of feel like a little bit of a hometown hero,” a beaming Abbatiello said, moments after crossing the finish line with a time of 1:30:24, tops among female runners.
"It helps, having people come out and cheer for you," said a former runner who showed up Sunday to offer support from the sidelines.
Darkness still shrouded Central Park as runners trickled in ahead of the 6 a.m. starting gun. The earlier start (the race began at 7 a.m. in recent years) contributed to both sparser crowds and ideal racing conditions, with temperatures holding in the mid-to-high 50s.
“I think starting earlier is so much better,” Abbatiello said. “The sun is coming up; it’s just the start to a good day — if you’re a morning person.”
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After pulling away from the pack early on, Abbatiello described much of her race as “no man’s land,” long stretches without another runner in sight.
“You have to stay positive and be so mentally strong and keep your eyes on the person in front of you,” she said. “And if there isn’t, then make someone.”
On the men’s side, aspiring fighter pilot Erik McMillan turned on the afterburners, crossing the finish line with a winning mark of 1:07:30, less than three minutes off the course record set by Fredericksburg’s Tim Young back in 2014.
The 25-year-old Air Force officer from North Carolina was also running his first Historic Half, and the race left a positive, if mixed, impression.
“The first 10 miles of the course were certainly awesome,” McMillan said. “Downtown Fredericksburg was really great to run through; it’s a beautiful city.
“Mile 10 kind of made me rethink how great the city was. I guess they put that hill by a hospital for a reason.”
Samuel Yakulis, a North Stafford High School graduate, won the Semper 5ive five-mile race with a time of 26:34.
A combined 3,252 entered the Historic Half and the Devil Dog Double, with another 506 participating in the Semper 5ive that started near James Monroe High School.