NEW BEDFORD — Thousands turned out downtown on Sunday morning for the 41st annual New Bedford Half Marathon.

Just recently moved to Providence from New York City, Jim Spisak won the men's race in his first time running it. Spisak finished with an unofficial time of 1:04:52, averaging just under 5:00 per mile. Impressively, the 2018 winner says that he's been sick this past week and also didn't know what to expect of the course, forcing him to run at a more conservative pace.

“I was a little bit sick this week so I wanted to go a little conservative and run within myself, which I think I did for the most part. I started off pretty slow and then got rolling a little bit between probably five and nine, but then coming back with the wind being in my face it was kind of tough,” Spisak said. “The only hills in the race were in the first couple of miles so it was nice to get them out of the way. It was a really awesome race and it was great to have so many people from the community out. I enjoyed it.”

Spisak held a comfortable lead for most of the race. After starting off in a pack with former New Bedford winners Johnny Wilson and Ruben Sanca through much of the Hathaway Road stretch, Spisak began pulling away following the Hathaway hill and making the turn onto Rockdale. His lead only increased on Rockdale Avenue with the wind at his back, and by the time Spisak reached the South End peninsula, second place was nowhere in sight. He ran the second half of the course pretty much all by himself, barely ever breaking stride and not taking water once throughout the race.

2018 New Bedford Half Marathon winner Jim Spisak. Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media

Holly Reese recorded a time of 1:14:05 to win the women's. Reese is originally from Scotland, and has been living in Boston for the past three years while attending grad school. She says her unofficial time must be a personal best for her, setting a pace of about 5:30 per mile.

“This is actually the longest race I've ran for about two years. I would eventually like to get into longer distances but I'm not really there yet,” said Reese. “I haven't ran this before but all of my friends who have warned me so much about the wind on mile nine, so I'm just so thankful for all of their advice because if I didn't know that it would've been a much harder race.”

Holly Reese crosses the finish line to win the women's race in the 41st annual New Bedford Half Marathon. Tim Dunn/TSM.

The course is challenging, one that includes two major hills and features waterfront views that continually provides a cold gust of wind on the runners. The two winners were far from being the only ones to admit to the difficulty of the course, especially down by the water.

A 25-year-old man who traveled to New Bedford from Maine with his running team, Julian Gazzelloni described his first experience with the bitter winter wind that dominates the waterfront of the Whaling City.

“This is my first year running but all of my teammates have said how windy and awful it can be. Going down by the water it was just miserable with the wind in the face,” Gazzelloni said. “My training has really been up and down so I didn't really know what to expect. I'll probably be back next year.”

Well known marathoners from the New Bedford took part in the race as well, including two-time Boston Marathon winner and Olympian Geoff Smith. The half-marathon is also used as a tune-up for marathoners preparing for the Boston Marathon, slated for Patriots Day every year.

The first men’s finisher from the SouthCoast was Wareham’s Eric Holmes, coming in at 1:15.29. The first SouthCoast women’s finisher was Molly Rouillard from South Dartmouth, at 1:22.06.

 

The race was hosted by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a New Bedford-based fraternal organization, and the City of New Bedford.

Complete race results can be found here.

Check out some more photos from the race below:

41st Annual New Bedford Half Marathon. Tim Dunn/TSM.
41st Annual New Bedford Half Marathon. Tim Dunn/TSM.
41st Annual New Bedford Half Marathon. Tim Dunn/TSM.
Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media