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ARLINGTON, Va. — In a year in which torrential rains and even hurricanes have repeatedly drenched the nation’s capital, the weather gods smiled on the 2003 Army Ten-Miler race in Washington Sunday, bringing the kind of clear skies, light breezes and slightly chilly weather that makes runners want to lace up their sneakers.

With 18,463 registered runners — one in three of whom are military members — hailing from 15 countries, the Army event continued to hold its place as America’s largest 10-mile road race.

The beautiful weather produced lots of personal best times for many runners, but no course records.

The men’s overall winner was John Henwood, 31, from Washington, who crossed in 48:39 — an average pace of 4 minutes, 51 seconds per mile.

Fast as it was, Henwood’s time was well off the 47:44 course record set by Dan Browne in 1997.

The fastest woman Sunday was Alisa Harvey, 38, of Manassas, Va., who finished in 59:29 — unusually slow for women in this race, at least at the elite runner’s level, where a even few seconds can mean the difference between first place and an unlisted finish.

For example, year’s overall women’s winner, Casey Smith, came in almost a full minute faster than Harvey, at 58:21, while the course record for women, 56:20, was set in 1995 by Susan Molloy.

U.S. Army Europe’s women’s team, meanwhile, did itself proud, with two of its members finishing in the top 10 of the women’s race: Jessica Jacobs, 26, who ran a personal best time of 1:02:25; and Jacqueline Chen, 40, who was right behind her with 1:02:33.

With two top-10 overall finishers, it’s no surprise that the USAEUR women’s team ran themselves right into first place in the Military Women category.

Jacobs, who is a captain in the 18th Support Battalion at Grafenwohr, Germany, said that the extra mileage she put on the road while training for the Iron Man competition in Switzerland in July really showed when she hit the Washington race.

Also boosting her time, she said, was the Army 10-miler race itself, which offers, “A beautiful, flat course, and thousands of people pushing you from behind,” Jacobs said.

“That, and the crowds,” she said. “You have people cheering, chanting cadence … it really encourages you.”

“This is my dream come true,” said Staff Sgt. Wendy Cooper, a dainty 4’10” mother of two sons who missed a team berth in 2001 by eight seconds during the summer’s qualifying race in Grafenwohr.

Cooper, who is assigned to USAEUR’s Material Management Center, ran a 68:22 race — a personal best time made all the more triumphant after a series of hospital stays this year caused many doctors to advise her to “take it easy.”

“I was just determined to get back out there” and train, Cooper said.

USAEUR’s top male finisher was Staff Sgt. Shannon Swords, who is the patient affairs NCOIC at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Swords’ unofficial finish time was 52:57, a personal best and almost a minute faster than his 53:54 finish in last year’s 10 miler.

Glistening with sweat after the race despite the slight chill in the air, Swords attributed his success to the near-perfect weather conditions.

“You couldn’t ask for better,” he said.

The USAEUR men’s team didn’t finish in the top three Military Men’s category. But for Capt. Michael Baka, who works in the 1st Infantry Division’s G-3 office in Wuerzburg, the chance to wear the team’s bright-yellow jersey and shorts in the Washington race was enough of a trophy.

Baka came in 11th during the summer trials in Graf and was named as a team alternate. But it wasn’t until three of the top eight male finishers had to drop out that he was able to claim his berth and make the trip here.

After all that, Baka and Cooper — his training buddy — both encountered a miserable 48-hour odyssey from Europe that began Oct. 2, when their plane from Frankfurt got diverted to Shannon, Ireland.

So it’s little wonder that Baka was happy with his race time of 58:10, a personal best.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever broken 60” minutes, said Baka.

The USAEUR runners were cheered on by no less than their commander, USAEUR four-star Gen. B.B. Bell, who gave the group a pep talk before the race and rewarded them each with a command coin at the race’s conclusion.

Dressed in an understated black warm-up outfit and USAEUR ball cap, Bell acknowledged the challenges faced by his runners in an environment in which 50 percent of the command’s personnel are deployed.

“Yes, it’s been hard,” Bell said after the race. “But the spirit of these soldiers demonstrated today is exactly the same spirit demonstrated by all our soldiers in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, or wherever they may be.”

“Whether fighting in Iraq or running this race, they’re all making investments in our nation,” Bell said. “I’m proud of them.”

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