No shame, no hamstring trouble for the triumphant Kilbride

If Kathleen Kilbride sounded like a woman on a mission, well, she was. The Nassau Point runner had something to prove to herself as well as to others.

Kilbride won the first New Suffolk Waterfront 5K last year. She said she was embarrassed by her time of 21 minutes 53 seconds, and didn’t even know she had won the race until someone told her.

While training in February, Kilbride, 52, injured her left hamstring. She reaggravated the hamstring in April, and didn’t return to running until earlier this month.

The second annual New Suffolk Waterfront 5K on Saturday morning was Kilbride’s first road race in quite a while, and she was determined to make a good showing. “I felt like I needed to show a better, more honest effort today,” she said.

Kilbride did just that, successfully defending her title with a winning time of 20:33 and looking like she had put her hamstring problems behind her.

“It would have been nice to go under 20 [minutes], but, you know, this is O.K,” she said.

If Kilbride gained a confidence-builder, so did Nick Petsky, a Holy Cross University freshman tuning up for the upcoming college cross-country season. Petsky, 18, of Manorville, wearing the red and gold top he wore when he ran for Chaminade High School, was the first runner to cross the finish line in 17:30. His nearest challenger was Rick Trojanowski of Calverton, who was second for the second year in a row, 12 seconds behind Petsky. David Greenberg of New York City took third in 17:47.

“I woke up wanting to win,” said Petsky, who picked up his first career road race win. “I don’t like that to make me sound cocky, but I wanted to wake up and do something today.”

Running in his first and only race of the summer, Petsky heard cheers from the side of the road as he led the pack for virtually the whole way after bolting to the front at the start. He heard an announcement that the first runner to reach the one-mile mark in the 3.1-mile race would receive a gift of two free rounds of golf. “I wasn’t going for the golf,” he said. “I wanted to get out quick.”

Trojanowski, a 36-year-old relative newcomer to the sport, ran his fastest five-kilometer time, slicing 39 seconds off his time from last year. He did so by keeping Petsky in sight the whole time.

“I started gaining on him towards the end, but I couldn’t close it,” Trojanowski said. “I just kind of used him as a rabbit. I knew I couldn’t catch him, but I was hoping to … It gave me something to follow.”

Petsky acknowledged that Trojanowski’s presence helped him, too. “I don’t like people tailing me so much, but at least there’s someone there pushing you,” said Petsky.

Petsky will report to his college team for training on Aug. 22 in Worcester, Mass., which he said is basically “one big hill.” He expects to have his weekly training mileage up to 60 miles by the end of the month. Saturday, he said, was a good day for him.

“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “It gives me a little confidence before I’m going and that’s something I wanted to get out of here today. It worked.”

Kilbride, who runs for the Long Island Running Club and the Westchester Track Club, took up running when she was 46 and has won numerous road races since. She might have clocked a faster time had she been pushed. The next two female finishers after her were Babera Russo of Bellport (21:18) and Vickie Edwards of Mattituck (21:54).

Was Kilbride nervous?

“You’re always nervous,” she said.

The good news was that Kilbride’s hamstring held up. She understands that aches and pains come with competition. “That’s part of the game, I guess,” she said, “just physical therapy, taking Advil.”

According to the race director, Gary Osborne, Saturday’s event drew approximately 400 runners, exceeding last year’s 313. Saturday’s total included some 60 youngsters who took part in a one-kilometer race for kids, a new addition to the program.

Osborne said the event, a fund-raiser to preserve the New Suffolk waterfront, was “definitely a success,” with no injuries and plenty of smiling faces.

“It’s about enjoying yourself, bringing the family out for a day of enjoyment in the sun and being near the water,” he said. “Half the race is a water view, and I think that’s what brings people out because there’s no other course like this.”

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