CHELMSFORD -- History was made on Friday at the annual John Carson Road Race.
For the first time in the 26-year history of the two-mile race through Chelmsford, both the male and female winners won for the second straight year.
Lowell's Jeffrey Veiga, 23, captured first overall in a time of 9:04, while Boston's Karen Roa, 24, won the women's title in a time of 10:34. Roa placed 20th overall.
Veiga topped his winning time last year by 20 seconds, and Roa bested her 2013 time by nine seconds. Some of that can be attributed to the weather conditions. It was a muggy and cloudy 75-degree morning -- not exactly comfortable. But compared to the sunny 90-plus-degree weather that has been typical in past years, Friday felt great to the runners.
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"It was definitely better than past years, but still not the best conditions," said Veiga, a former runner at Lowell High and UMass Lowell. "I was thinking of going for the course record, but these last couple of weeks haven't been the best for me. After seeing what I ran -- just over nine minutes -- if I had taken these last couple of weeks a little more seriously, I definitely could've got it."
In this Fourth of July tradition, a course record means you leave the race with a much thicker wallet. A prize of $1,000 is awarded to a runner who sets the male or female course record. Patrick Tarpy (2007) and Louie Luchini (2010) currently hold the men's record of 8:50. Lesley Lehane (1998) holds the women's record of 10:06.
Roa, who ran at UMass Amherst, has competed in the race twice, and won the women's crown both years.
"It's always a challenge to run out here. It's July in New England," said Roa, a native of Queens, N.Y, who works at Mass General researching diabetes. "I think, personally, the course record is really hard. I've never even run that fast on a track, so it would be really difficult. But I can still come down here another year and see what happens."
A total of 2,000 runners registered for the race, which finished in Chelmsford Center. Nearly all of them actually ran.
Boston's Brian Harvey took second overall in a time of 9:13, while Providence's Adam Malek was third in 9:19. Tewksbury's Cory Thomas (fourth, 9:38), Dracut's Dan Roark (fifth, 9:47), Chelmsford's Josh Andrews (seventh, 9:50), Lowell's Andrew Downey (eighth, 9:51) and Lowell's Ethan Brown (10th, 9:55) also placed in the top 10.
Acton's Kristen Lerra (11:19) was the second woman to finish, followed by Chelmsford's Kara Haas (11:24).
The race has become quite popular in the Merrimack Valley, and there was plenty of local flavor.
"I went to UMass Lowell and became good friends with a couple of Chelmsford kids," said Veiga. "They told me this is the race you have to do during the summer -- the Carson two-miler. I love it. You drive by the course days before and spectators already have their chairs out. I like to think it's to watch me race, but it's probably because of the parade after the race."
The race is held in honor of former Chelmsford High runner John Carson who died on Dec. 30, 1987 at the age of 17 after being struck by a single-engine locomotive on the Boston & Maine railroad tracks which run near CHS. It happened while Carson was on a training run with teammates.
Once again, a big turnout of spectators lined the streets during the race to cheer on the runners.
"Everything was really smooth," said longtime race director Bob Sullivan. "Compared to how it usually is, this was a pretty good year for weather. It's usually brutal."