WHEELING - Prior to the first-ever Ogden 20K Relay last year, Bill Ihlenfeld II and his wife Becket had an important decision to make.
The Wheeling couple had to decide which one of them would run the first half of the relay. Bill knew the part of the relay he wanted to handle, but he asked his wife to decide which end of the race she wanted run.
He said his wife made the decision he hoped she would make.
(Photo by Scott McCloskey0
Bill Ihlenfeld II and his wife Becket take a warm-up run along Wheeling’s Heritage Port with their children from left, Emma, Sarah Louise, and Charlie in preparation for the 2009 Ogden 20K Relay.
"Twenty-ninth Street Hill is believed to be the most difficult portion of the race, and it's in the first half," he said. " I was hoping she would choose (the first half), and I was glad she did. I thanked her. She's going to do it again this year."
Becket apparently made the best decision for the team. They finished in second place in the first-ever Ogden 20K Relay with a time of 1:34:01. Becket said she chose the first half of the relay because the most difficult part, 29th Street Hill, is in the early portion of the race.
In preparation for the upcoming relay, Becket recently ran up 29th Street Hill. She painfully recalled why her husband prefers to finish the relay, and she questioned her own decision in handling that portion of the event.
"I ran it on Monday, and I thought, 'Why did I agree to this again?' she said through laughter. "It does hurt."
Bill loves the Ogden 20K Relay for several reasons, but two initially came to mind. First, he doesn't have to run the entire 20K. Second, he gets to make a good impression with the runners who do run the entire 20K.
"I'm on the course with people who have already run 6.1 miles," Ihlenfeld said. "I'm fresh, and that's fun. They wonder, 'What's up with this guy why's he so fresh?'"
However, Bill enjoys the Ogden 20K Relay for reasons beyond the shorter distance and his image in the eyes of the other runners. He enjoys the race because it has allowed he and his wife to form stronger bonds in their marriage.
Together, they are competitors with a common goal, and this year's goal is to improve on their time from 2008. They are encouraging each other in preparation for the Ogden 20K Relay. Despite narrowly missing a first-place finish in last year's relay, the Ihlenfeld's are not ready to predict a victory in this year's race.
Diane Bosich and Wayne McCracken won last year's relay with a time of 1:30:34. They are expected to compete again this year, and Bill will not forecast an upset or inspire his competition.
"I don't want to put anything out there to make them mad," Bill said. "I'm not putting up any bulletin board material, but we are going to try to do better" than last year's time.
With this being the second year of the Ogden 20K Relay, Bill and Becket Ihlenfeld both said they expect more entrants in this year's race, which will lead to tougher competition. There likely will be more family teams as well, and that does not only mean husband-wife tandoms.
Father-daughter teams take part as well. Last year, 52-year-old Wheeling resident Charles Wolfe and his 21-year-old daughter Ashley finished in less than two hours.
The Wolfes hope to be back this year, but Charles is nursing an ankle injury. Their participation in the relay is in doubt, and he said it is unfortunate. Both of them enjoyed the first-ever relay, and they enjoyed working as a team. The Wolfes and the Ihlenfelds are examples of why the Ogden 20K Relay is becoming known as a family affair in only its second year in existence.
"We push each other," Bill Ihlenfeld said. "We tell each other how we did (in training). We've got three kids so our training is separate. When she runs, I'm with the kids. When I run, she's with them.
"It was neat last year," he added. "We did pretty good and had no expectations. It was neat to enjoy that together. We got to see our name in the paper."
The Ihlenfeld's continue to train for this year's Ogden 20K relay, and two of their three children also will be involved in race events. Sarah Louise, 8, will be running her second Ogden Mile. Seven-year-old Emma is running her first Ogden Mile, along with her father and sister. Charlie, 5, is not yet old enough to put his feet to the pavement in an Ogden event, his mother said.
Becket said there are two moments in the Ogden 20K Relay that make the event special. As she approaches the end of her run she also approach her husband as he prepares for his journey.
"Emotionally, I think it is very nice that he is waiting for me, and that motivates me to go that much faster," she said.
She said the second special moment is when her husband finishes the race. Becket, Sarah Louise, Emma and Charlie all get to see Bill cross the finish line. Becket believes she will compete in the Ogden 20K Relay as long as she and her husband can.
"The whole family gets to watch daddy finish," She said. "As long as they have the relay race we will do it."