DARIEN, Conn. – Norwalk’s Tim Downs and Wilton’s Mary Zengo paced the largest field ever in the 33-year history of the Darien Road Race at Pear Tree Point on Sunday.
Downs won the overall race and Zengo won the women’s division of the 10-kilometer race. More than 600 runners were registered for the 10K and 1.5-mile loop run. Last year's events had 490 finishers.
Downs had made a last-minute decision to run the race. “I just found out about it last night,’’ said Downs, who is training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. “Some friends told me about last night. I’m a neighbor of (race director) Mary Green so I thought I’d give it a try.”
Downs, Jan Sopko and Anatolie Vartosu ran in the lead pack until about the 5-mile mark in the 6.2-mile race. Downs and Sopko eventually got separated and were battling for the lead over the final mile. “He was trying to break me, I was trying to break him,’’ Downs said. “Fortunately, I had just one more surge in me at the end.”
Downs won in 35:59, followed by Sopko in 36:12. Vartosu was third in 36:32.
Zengo, who had a spectacular summer in the Westport Summer Series, was challenged by Darien’s Liz Herbert early on but took command and never let up. “We went out really hard, like 5:45 or 6 minutes,’’ Zengo said. “I slowed down from there. We were really pushing it.”
Zengo has won the race multiple times, including last year. She won in 38:44, and Herbert finished second in 39:02. Celi Stockwell of New York took third in 40:16l
The huge turnout helped support several charities. The race benefits the Community Fund of Darien, the Bennett Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital and the Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital.