On Thursday, Melissa Hine turned 30.
On Sunday, the South Hadley, Mass., native received a pretty sweet belated birthday present: She won the women’s half marathon at the 42nd annual Clarence DeMar Marathon.
“That’s a good way to start my 30s,” Hine said.
It was Hine’s first time running the DeMar — just as it was for Katrina Morrissey, of East Longmeadow, Mass., the winner of the women’s full marathon.
Hine finished in one hour, 28 minutes and 34 seconds, while Morrissey came in at 2:47.
“It feels awesome,” Morrissey said. “It went really well.”
While it was Hine’s first DeMar as a runner, it wasn’t her first time at the event. She grew up in a running family that included her mother, Karen, and her brother, Zachary Hine — who finished 10th overall and first among Americans at the 2016 Boston Marathon.
Growing up, Melissa Hine came to the Elm City to watch her mother run, which sometimes conflicted with Melissa’s birthday.
“It was always a joke that she was never here for my birthday because she was running the Clarence DeMar Marathon,” Hine said. “Now she’s bringing me to the start line, so that’s her payback for missing my birthday.”
Morrissey, on the other hand, grew up with soccer instead of running, playing on the pitch through college. She picked up running in high school to supplement her training for soccer, but after graduating from college, she dove into it full-time and fell in love with the sport.
After starting her marathon career by running in last October’s Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., Morrissey said she was hoping to find something closer to home this year.
“I’m from western Mass., so this is kinda nearby,” Morrissey said. “It looked like an awesome course, awesome time of year and a well-run race, so I decided to come check it out.”
Regardless of their familiarity with the race, both runners encountered surprises when they took to the road Sunday.
Hine — who said she was using this race to train for the Cape Cod Marathon in October — said she didn’t expect the course to have as many hills as it did, and Morrissey — who said she plans to run the Boston Marathon in April — took a wrong turn around mile 19, which added about a half-mile to her run.
But those didn’t stand in the way of their marches to victory.
“It was definitely a struggle to get to that spot,” Hine said. “My time wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I got to a point in the race where I just wanted to hold first place, so that’s what I did, and I’m happy with that.”
Just like many runners that have come to the DeMar before them, both Hine and Morrissey were impressed with the scenery and community support that the Monadnock Region brings to the event.
“The crowd was bigger than I expected,” Hine said. “There were a lot of pockets of people screaming, ‘first female!’ and really it was the only thing getting me through some of those tough miles, was just their enthusiasm. It was hard for me not to smile and be grateful to be out there.”
While Morrissey enjoyed the race, she’s not sure whether she’ll be back next year, saying she might instead look for another new challenge to embark on.
“I kinda like to switch it up and go different places,” Morrissey said, “but this was awesome. I wouldn’t mind coming back here.”
Hine, on the other hand, said she expects to be back next year after a great first experience.
“Oh yeah, I’ll come back,” Hine said, “just prepared for the hills.”