Defending her honor: Mill Race women’s champ returns

It’s just human nature that when she tells her favorite marathon story, her audience attempts to veer in another direction.

Then it’s up to Sararh Overpeck to, well, get them back on track.

Overpeck won the 2014 Mill Race Marathon in the women’s division, but people often want to hear about the freight train that literally sent the runners off course.

“People always ask about the train,” said Overpeck, a 32-year-old Indianapolis resident who got past the train and went forward to the victory in 3 hours, 4 minutes and 44 seconds. “It makes for a good story to climb through a train. Other people were climbing through the train, so why not?

“But that was the first time I won a marathon.”

The victory was important to Overpeck for a variety of reasons. She had won the Geist Half-Marathon but hadn’t triumphed at the full marathon distance. She won at Mill Race despite coming into the race off a shortened training schedule due to a stress fracture in her foot that spring.

And she absolutely loves Columbus.

“I hadn’t spent a lot of time here until I ran in the half-marathon in Columbus in 2013,” she said. “We (Sarah along with her husband, Chris) love Mill Race Park, which is beautiful. We love downtown, and we love ZwanzigZ.”

She not only came back, but she won.

“Last year, it just seemed like a good time of year for me to train,” she said. “This was a nice, small race; and I thought that maybe I could do well.”

She took the lead with two miles remaining and pulled away from Laura Gillette, second in 3:05.28, for the victory.

“I wasn’t going for a specific time,” Overpeck said. “But it was fun, and everything came together. I was able to turn a page.”

Columbus was a sure bet when Overpeck put together her 2015 racing schedule.

“A lot of it is about defending my title,” Overpeck said. “I think it will be fun experience.”

As much fun as running 26.2 miles can be.

While the distance always is a grind, Overpeck is excited to see how low she can go in her finish time with a healthy body and a solid couple of months of training.

She certainly is headed in the right direction. In February, she won the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama, in a personal best time of 2:52. That was her first marathon since the Mill Race.

Eight weeks later, she challenged the Boston Marathon field.

“The Boston Marathon broke my (winning) streak,” she said with a laugh. “But I did finish in the top 100 women at 92nd. I ran it in 2:56.”

At 32, Overpeck understands that she has yet to reach her prime as a distance runner. She said the United States Olympic Trials is on her radar for 2020. She also plans to continue distance running her entire life, hopefully continuing to be a top runner.

Now working in the NCAA’s eligibility center in Indianapolis, Overpeck started running in eighth grade. She ran cross-country and track at Bishop Chatard High School but wasn’t recruited to run in college.

Her senior year at Indiana University, she was a walk-on for the cross-country team after spending her previous college years as the coxswain on the rowing team. By the time she joined the IU cross-country team, she said running a marathon already was in her plans.

Those plans became a reality at a marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas, when she was 24. She finished in 3:17.

Her marathon career was launched and now is to the point where she is a threat to win at many of the mid-sized marathons.

“You never know who is going to show up on race day,” she said.

But can she defend in Columbus? Gillette has confirmed that she will return for a rematch.

“If I run my race, that might happen,” Overpeck said of winning again.

While Overpeck will defend her marathon title, defending men’s and overall marathon champ Geoffrey Cheptoek has yet to decide if he will defend this year. Cheptoek said he felt the Mill Race Marathon committee should pay his entry this year because that’s the customary thing to do for a defending champ.

However, Cheptoek said the Mill Race committee has informed him it won’t pay his entry fee.

Men’s half-marathon winner Patrick Cheptoek said he will return to defend his half-marathon title. Women’s half-marathon winner Emmy Chepkirui could not be reached.

Sarah Overpeck

NAME: Sarah Overpeck, defending Mill Race Marathon women’s champion

AGE: 32 years old

LIVES: Indianapolis

HUSBAND: Chris Overpeck

WORKS: Works for the NCAA in its eligibility center in Indianapolis

GOAL: To run personal best in Columbus Mill Race Marathon on Sept. 26

CURRENT PR: 2 hours, 52 minutes