Less than a year from now, Andrew Topham will have finished medical school and take the next step in becoming a doctor.
Until then, Dr. Topham can wait. The 26-year-old Valley Center resident is trying to make the most of what could be the nearing end of his competitive road racing career with his professional career looming.
Topham made the most of a hot and muggy Saturday morning, covering the 10-kilometer course through downtown Wichita in 34 minutes, 46 seconds to win the Kansas Health Foundation River Run.
It was the third time Topham has run in the River Run, previously placing sixth in 2012 and third in 2011.
“I guess running is kind of like stress relief for me,” Topham said. “It helps me sleep at night and helps me not think about all of the studying I have to do for a little bit. It helps me get away.”
But his victory wasn’t the only Topham victory on Saturday. His new wife, Amy, was the first woman to cross the finish line in a winning time of 38:55.
Both Andrew and Amy (Pierson) Topham are both Southwestern graduates who were All-American runners at the NAIA level.
“It’s really exciting and cool to be able to do this together,” Amy said. “We feel blessed.”
Maintaining his running schedule has never been a problem for Andrew, even with the demanding schedule that attending the KU School of Medicine in Wichita requires.
In some ways, Topham thinks it’s made him better, more efficient.
“He’s really pretty dedicated,” his wife said. “He keeps himself organized and I think running helps him relax a little.”
There was no time for either Topham to relax on Saturday, as each trailed the leader after four miles in a race that lasts a little longer than six. That’s when each began to ascend up the ranks, catching the leaders and then passing them.
Andrew had no issue powering through the field, pulling away in the final mile to win by 48 seconds over 39-year-old Wichita native Kurt Aitken.
“That’s kind of how I always do it,” Andrew said. “I was feeling it that last mile, but that’s the way it should be.”
Amy faced a stiffer challenge, however. She had to out-duel Kim Tuhro, who was coming off her victory in the Prairie Fire half-marathon. Tuhro pushed the pace early and led for the majority of the race, but did not have enough energy under the blistering sun to hold of Amy’s late charge to put a 11-second gap between the two.
The heat drastically affected times, as both the winning male and female times were the slowest they have been since the turn of the century.
“I actually kind of like the heat, I really do,” Amy said. “It’s just fun to compete against great runners like (Tuhro).”
Andrew doesn’t know if he will have the time or even where he will be to race next year after he graduates next spring.
But if this was his last memory from Wichita road racing, it was a special one.
“Who knows?” Topham said of his future. “I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, but I think I’ll keep running. I’ll find a way somehow.”
State of the River Run -- Registration for Wichita’s most historic road race has declined every year since the River Run peaked in 2010, with nearly 5,500 runners competing in the 10-kilometer and 2-mile races.
This year saw the lowest turnout since the turn of the century, as the 10-kilometer and 2-mile races drew 1,977 runners – more than 1,000 fewer than the previous low. The biggest dip was in the 2-mile race, which has drawn an average of more than 2,500 runners alone dating back to 2003. On Saturday, 957 finished the race.
The culprit seems to be the decision by Wichita Festivals to move the signature race to the closing Saturday this year instead of the opening Saturday, where it has traditionally been.
“We were just trying to be better neighbors downtown and not do all of the road closures on back-to-back days,” Wichita Festivals president and CEO Mary Berth Jarvis said. “It also allowed hundreds of runners to sign up for the race during the week.”
It was a decision made with good intentions, but ultimately failed – for this year, at least – not just because of the date change but because it coincided with two other local races and a major regional one in Kansas City.
“Runners are a different breed and they have set patterns and when you change it on them they freak out,” said Nancy Zoeller, a 56-year-old Wichita native who ran Saturday and is a veteran on the local running scene. “Running it on the first Saturday has been the tradition and that’s when people were planning for it, so when they changed it people were already signed up for other races.
“I think if they changed it back they would at least double the participation next year.”
It’s a thought that Jarvis will mull over after this year’s race.
“We’re going to sit back and assess everything, but what we want to do for sure is to get our date declared early on so we can avoid conflict the best we can with other races,” Jarvis said. “I like the pace of it with regard to the Festival, but we’ll make that decision as quick as we can after this year’s race.”
Juggling man -- Many don’t recognize the name of Jeffrey Ward, but if you tell them he’s the guy who juggles during races then most people know who Ward is.
The 31-year-old engineer moved to Wichita eight years ago after graduating from Missouri University of Science and Technology, where he joined a juggling club and took his juggling “to the next level.”
Ward has been running in 10 kilometers and half-marathons ever since … juggling. The entire race.
“It takes away from the monotony of running and it helps me concentrate not so much on the running,” Ward said. “I like seeing the smiles. It helps me out, keeps me going. I’ll get the occasional, ‘You’re just showing off,’ but that’s pretty rare.
Ward finished the 10-kilometer on Saturday in just under a hour, clocking in at 59 minutes, 53 seconds.
“My goal is I would love to be able to do an entire marathon juggling,” Ward said. “I’d probably quit after that.”
2-mile winners – An hour after finishing runner-up in the 10-kilometer race, Tuhro won the women’s 2-mile race in a time of 12:22. Dominick Fonseca, who just graduated as a state-champion distance runner at West High, won the men’s 2-mile race by 27 seconds in a time of 10:24.
Overall – 1. Andrew Topham, Valley Center, 34:46; 2. Kurt Aiken, Wichita, 35:34; 3. Joseph Kenneson, Wichita, 35:52. Age-graded Masters – Dale Bing, Wichita, 41:04. 3-12 – Jeramiah Rather, Wichita, 1:04:56. 13-15 – Connor O’Connell, Wichita, 40:13. 16-18 – Hunter Nance, Wichita, 38:36. 19-24 – John Dolechek, Manhattan, 38:17. 25-29 – Logan Jones, Wichita, 36:15. 30-34 – Nathan Newby, Wichita, 39:59. 35-39 – Nick Mueting, Dodge City, 40:25. 40-44 – Tim Warsnak, Newton, 39:26. 45-49 – Matthew Brunett, Valley Center, 40:32. 50-54 – Doug Karp, Wichita, 41:22. 55-59 – Jeff DeGarmo, Valley Center, 43:10. 60-64 – Greg Records, Wichita, 49:46. 65-69 – Tom Snook, Cheney, 47:12. 70-74 – Ron Nespor, Derby, 57:46. 75-99 – Conrad Graber, Wichita, 1:02:25.
Overall – 1. Amy Topham, Valley Center, 38:55; 2. Kim Tuhro, Wichita, 39:06; 3. McKenzie Miller, Hutchinson, 42:09. Age-graded Masters – Bonnie Fetrow, Wichita, 48:42. 3-12 – Aimee Davis, Clearwater, 42:33. 13-15 – Erin Topham, Wichita, 43:30. 16-18 – Elise Alexander, Wichita, 50:23. 19-24 – Julia Stafford, Independence, 46:47. 25-29 – Jenna Witten, Wichita, 47:10. 30-34 – Diana Miller, Newton, 48:48. 35-39 – Krissa Yon, Wichita, 48:31. 40-44 – Jennifer Espinoza, Lincolnville, 50:42. 45-49 – Kathy Morris, Wichita, 45:59. 50-54 – Patsy Taylor, Wellington, 53:25. 55-59 – Shelia Nixon, Collinsville, Okla., 54:50. 60-64 – Karen Wells, Wichita, 55:55. 65-69 – Bev Hunter, Newton, 1:16:47. 70-74 – Sheryl Drevo, Goddard, 58:51. 75-99 – Rowena Hinshaw, Wichita, 1:18:38.
Overall – Dominick Fonseca, Wichita, 10:24. 3-10 – Dawson Schmidt, Augusta, 14:52. 11-14 – Sawyer Schmidt, Augusta, 12:10. 15-18 – Alex Moen, Andover, 11:44. 19-39 – Fernando Martinez, Wichita, 11:25. Age-graded Masters – David Keller, Wichita, 10:51. Wheelchair – Bill Buell, Wichita, 34:25.
Overall – Kim Tuhro, Wichita, 12:22. 3-10 – Julia Berends, Wichita, 14:52. 11-14 – Kadee Martinez, Wichita, 13:59. 15-18 – Ariel Nunez, Wichita, 14:34. 19-39 – Victoria Tamez, Wichita, 15:38. Age-graded Masters – Stephanie Griggs, Wichita, 13:47.