ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Thousands of dedicated runners set out in Allentown Sunday morning as part of the 30th annual St. Luke's Half Marathon.
Two new champions captured the men's and women's crowns for the first time since 2008.
Matt Lutcza, 23, Collegeville, Montgomery County, was the top male, finishing in 1:09:32. He took more than a minute off his 2013 second-place time of 1:10:59.
Lutcza, a 2012 graduate of nearby Moravian College, trains with a group of Lehigh Valley runners that includes five-time women's champion Kathleen Jobes.
"I didn't go in thinking I would win this, so it was a nice surprise," Lutcza said. "We were in the chase pack for a long time. We finally caught up to the leaders in the Parkway. When we hit the roads again, I just tried to make sure to keep pushing."
Marisa Orsson, 22, of Shavertown, Luzerne County, won the women's title in 1:18:43 – a more than four-minute victory over her closest rival.
This was only her second half marathon. She said the support of fans and fellow runners helped motivate her.
"I was kind of out in no-man's land most of the race," she said. "At the (mile 4.6) turnaround, there were lots of runners cheering me and it was really motivating."
Nearly 2,800 runners completed the 13.1-mile race on a cool, mostly cloudy day in Allentown.
The temperatures were ideal for distance running: 44 degrees at the 8:10 start and rising slowly into the 50s with a westerly breeze.
Lutcza bested a tight field that included two former St. Luke's Half Marathon winners.
Second place was Terrance Shea, 40, Lewisburg, Union County, who finished in 1:09:42, only 10 seconds behind Lutcza.
The 2010 champion, Kevin Borelli, 32, Dickson City, Lackawanna County, took third in 1:09:52. Ian Walsh, 28, of Easton, who won last year's title, was fourth in 1:10:42 and David Strauss, 21, of Orefield, captured fifth in 1:11:59.
For the second straight year, Jenny Cronin, 23, of Palmerton, Carbon County, was the runner-up, clocking in at 1:22:58.
Jessica Roberts, 27, of Arlington, Va., was third in 1:27:21.
Kristin Karwacki, 34, of Macungie, Lehigh County, captured 4th in 1:27:22, and Jessica Chin, 27, of Arlington, Va., rounded out the top five with a time of 1:27:40.
Runners from more than 20 states were represented at Sunday's half marathon, the largest single-day athletic event in the Lehigh Valley.
The course took runners through the roads and parks of Allentown, including the Lehigh Parkway, which has been noted by Runner's World magazine as one of the top 100 places to run in the country.
The companion St. Luke's 5k race was won by Brandon Fritz, 20, Allentown, in 17:09. Jobes took the 5k women's crown in 17:38, good for third overall.
This year was the fifth year that St. Luke's University Health Network has sponsored the event, which included a family fun walk on Sunday and the St. Luke's Youth Run on Saturday.
More than 750 children aged 3-14 participated in the free event on Saturday on Hamilton Street in downtown Allentown.
Proceeds from the St. Luke's Half Marathon and 5k benefit youth fitness, health and running programs across the greater Lehigh Valley.
Allentown, PA 18102