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Stories abound in weekend events

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- With thousands flocking downtown in what has arguably become Albany's signature downtown event, there was no shortage of unique and interesting stories from those participating in the festivities.

These are just a few vignettes of the lives of those who came to Albany this weekend.

50 YEARS OF MARATHONS

Gary Allen's first trip into Southwest Georgia was a memorable one Saturday. When he crossed the finish line during the Snicker's Energy Bar Marathon, it started his fifth straight decade of running quicker-than-3-hour marathons.

"Only a handful of people in history have done it, so its a big deal for me," the Bar Harbor, Maine, resident said.

Allen first began his journey with a marathon in 1978. Since then, he's managed to run the 26-mile races in each of the following decades all under three hours.

"I feel completely humbled and amazed that I've been able to pull it off...the time I raced today is a minute better than I was able to do in 1978," Allen said.

Allen said he was impressed with the race and the town and that he would spread the word among the runners in New England about what he called a "nice event."

"I'm going to promote this heavily in New England," he said. "I have nothing but nice things to say about the hospitality and the race and the course and town. It's just been a great experience. I think when more New England runners hear about this race you'll see hundreds more down here. It's a good event."

RUNNING FOR HIGHER PURPOSE

Dr. Jose Tongol has seen hundreds of patients through his work, but he admittedly had a soft spot for one of his more active -- Sara Underdown.

Underdown, the former vice president of the Albany Convention and Visitor's Bureau, was one of the city's most dogged supporters and managed to rub some of that support off on the good doctor as she was fighting a battle against cancer.

Underdown would eventually succumb to illness associated with her fight, but not before leaving an indelible mark on Albany and what has become its signature downtown event, the Snickers Bike Marathon, the Regions Bike Race and the Mardi Gras street festival.

Saturday, the Marathon was run in honor of Underdown who died last year. Tongol, undaunted by the loss of his patient, laced his own running shoes and pounded the 26 miles of payment on the course in memory of Underdown.

16-YEAR-OLD BICYCLIST

Tony Sigrist is barely able to legally drive vehicles with four wheels, but Saturday, he took one with two wheels speeding through downtown as a part of the Regions Bike Race.

Sigrist, a 16-year-old Tallahassee native, is an accomplished racer with several silver and bronze finishes under his belt.

Amazingly he first started competing as a biker at age 12 when he began honing his racing skills in competive events.

Saturday he and a couple hundred other bikers from around the globe sped through downtown Albany taking sharp corners at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour.

Early reports are that no one was injured during the event, although two bikers were involved in a minor crash when an errant car driver found himself turning across the course causing a wreck. The bikes were damaged but no injuries were reported. The driver was cited by police, however.