Dollard, Conston enjoy strong running seasons; Kopac celebrates life

This week, we’ll talk about Jeff Conston and Kevin Dollard, both of whom also had strong 2017 seasons of racing on the masters circuit.

Source: Dollard, Conston enjoy strong running seasons; Kopac celebrates life

In last week’s column, we summarized another successful year of masters running and racing for Marisa Sutera Strange of Pleasant Valley. This week, we’ll talk about her friends and training partners, Jeff Conston and Kevin Dollard, both of whom also had strong 2017 seasons of racing on the masters circuit.

Conston finished the year by stepping up in distance — waaaay up! — racing the 10,000-meter USA Track and Field National Masters Cross Country Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. Conston pushed his body to the limit and ran a competitive time of 39:17 on the chilly and crusty 6.2-mile cross country course.

The year 2018 will be exciting for him, as he enters a new age group, 50-54.

MASTER RUNNER: Pleasant Valley’s Sutera Strange named best in USA

WALKWAY MARATHON: Series ends marathon race, changes time, name

Here’s his summary of recent races:

“I just finished a challenging fall season, and really realize that I’m much more competitive on the track. I started with the masters 5K road nationals in Syracuse the beginning of October, perfect weather, feeling great, ran a great race in what I think is my road (personal record) of 17:23, (I think 84-percent age-graded). My only regret was not having anything left for the last 400 straightaway to the finish. Two weeks later was the masters 5K cross country nationals in Boston. Humid, warm day, and I again ran a very good race on a challenging course in 18:23. This time I was able to muster up a really good sprint to the finish, passing at least 12 people the last 400. When I compared my times from the two races, to others who had done both, my one-minute difference was less than everyone near me except one person.”

After that, Conston trained hard for the next seven weeks, leading up to the Lexington race. In hindsight, he said he felt like he overtrained leading up to the long race for him — his more comfortable distance is 1,500 meters on the track.

“I normally run six days a week between 45-50 miles, and find that the seventh day off really helps me recover,” he said. “But on my scheduled days off this fall, it always seemed to be 70 and sunny, and felt like I needed to take advantage.”

The end result, he said, was tired legs and a vulnerability to injury. This manifested itself in his final workout, where he twinged his groin muscle with 11 days to go before his race. “I was able to observe the warning sign and get to the start not feeling it,” he said.

As far as the Kentucky race goes, the conditions and the longer-than-normal distance for Conston were dual challenges. “The ground was lumpy and frozen, and I was completely unsure what to wear on my feet, and legs,” he said. “I opted for spikes and leggings, the spikes being the right call, but I should have worn shorts. All of this aside, I went to the line knowing that the conditions were the same for everyone, we were all going to traverse the same 10K course.”

He added: “I actually felt good the first two miles, but the conditions wore on me, I felt like I was struggling to maintain my pace, but I did. The hardest part was a 500-meter hill, which was dead into the wind, and we had to do it three times. I got to 4 miles, and said to myself I’m not sure I’m going to break 40 minutes, but I never gave up, and as Steve Perks says ‘Run Tuff.’ I truly know that I gave my best effort, despite feeling that on a different day there was an extra minute in there. On to the next age group, and back to the track!”

Dollard’s strong year

Hopewell Junction’s Kevin Dollard poses with his trophies
Hopewell Junction’s Kevin Dollard poses with his trophies from the USATF National Masters 8-kilometer Championships, held in late March in Virginia Beach. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

It was a strong year for the ageless wizard from Hopewell Junction.

Dollard was part of a national championship team in October, and then followed it up with a podium finish at Kentucky in December, where he placed 12th overall in 33:30 for 8,000 meters (just shy of 5 miles). At Franklin Park in Boston at the USATF Masters 5K Cross Country Championship on Oct. 15, his Shore AC team swept the top three spots.

In between, Dollard sizzled at the Troy Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, placing first out of 101 runners in the 60-64 division, while racing for Shore AC and representing 361 Degrees.

Since Dollard has joined the Shore AC 60-plus racing team, he has helped elevate them to national prominence in the sport. Like Strange and Conston, he seems to get better with age. Here’s to another successful year of racing in 2018.

Lynne Kopac, third from the left in the front row,
Lynne Kopac, third from the left in the front row, and friends pose together in during her Celebration of Life Run/Walk earlier this month. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Kopac’s celebration of life

In what has become an excellent, end-of-year tradition, LaGrange resident and longtime runner Lynne Kopac had a group fun run and brunch from her house, earlier this month. This “celebration of life” is hosted as a positive reminder of her breast cancer survival. Here is her “race report” …

“On Dec. 10, 2002, I received ‘the’ call from Sloan-Kettering that officially confirmed my breast cancer diagnosis from the biopsy done five days earlier. Of course, I was scared, upset and angry. But I was also glad that I already had my scheduled surgery date of Dec. 30. I got through the two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, with the support of my loving husband Bob, family and friends.

“Now, fast forward to Dec. 10, 2017: 15 wonderful and awesome years and hundreds of running miles later, 24 of us participated in my annual Celebration of Life Run/Walk on a sunny 25-degree morning (balmy, compared to the frigid 12 degrees for the eighth in 2010!). I am humbled, happy and thrilled to have so many terrific and faithful friends who join me and Bob every year to help us celebrate. I even have long-distance participants, with friends from Japan, Germany, Vermont and Florida already ‘reporting’ in!

Lynne Kopac and friends run together in during her
Lynne Kopac and friends run together in during her Celebration of Life Run/Walk earlier this month. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

“We did have to change the venue from the rail trail to our neighborhood because of Mother Nature’s Saturday snow, but everything worked out well. Afterwards, those who were able to joined us for brunch at our house, and many more came throughout the day. I can’t think of a better way for me to have celebrated my milestone of being 15 years cancer-free than with a run followed by yummy food with Bob and our friends.”

Norrie Point race

As mentioned in this space earlier this month, put the first race of the 2018 Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club schedule on your calendar.

The 2018 racing slate begins in a few weeks with the Recover from the Holidays 50-kilometer ultra at Norrie Point in Staatsburg. This run, which is free of charge, features an out-and-back 5-kilometer loop on hilly roads in and around the Mills Norrie State Park grounds. Many runners will come out and complete a few laps for their first long run of the New Year. A few hearty souls — usually around 15-20 — will complete all 10 laps for a 31-mile ultramarathon finish.

Charlie Sprauer and I have organized this race since its snowy inception in January of 1996; we hope to see you there!

Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club member Pete Colaizzo, the track coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, writes on running every week in Players. He can be reached at For more club information, go to

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