Michael Ledoux is preparing for his first marathon this fall.
The 47-year-old retired police lieutenant from New England experienced an ideal training run on Sunday as runners from 28 states and Canada competed in The 18.12 Challenge and Half Marathon.
In its second year, the events race route travels from Watertown to the historic Sackets Harbor Battlefield, next to Lake Ontario, in Sackets Harbor.
Ledoux, who moved to Watertown nearly two years ago, completed the half marathon (13.1 miles) last year but tackled the more grueling 18.12-mile race on Sunday.
I cant say enough positive things about the race, Ledoux said. I thought it was incredibly organized last year, and I think this year was even better.
Race director Leslie Robare was excited about the support from the community and the positive feedback she received from runners following the race.
The response from the Watertown and Sackets community was amazing, Robare said. People came together. I had over 120 volunteers who really pulled together to make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Robare said the event was designed to highlight the region while bringing an annual running event here.
We really want this to be a signature event for the Watertown/Sackets Harbor area and showcase this area as a really great place to run, Robare said.
Ledoux has always been an avid runner and has completed five half marathons. He was impressed with the whole 18.12 experience.
Its as professional as youre going to get, Ledoux said. The north country needs things like this. There arent a lot of races here. In New England, theres a race every weekend or every couple weekends.
Ledoux cited the Utica Boilermaker as the closest major racing event.
This thing is on target to become another Boilermaker if not bigger, Ledoux said.
The 18.12 Challenge attracted hundreds more runners this year than for its inaugural race. Last year 556 runners registered to run, while 827 signed up this year.
Theres definitely been a steady growth, and after the response this year, I think its going to even be a much better race for us next year, Robare said.
There were 642 total finishers in Sundays races.
Martin Nicholson, 26, of Syracuse captured the 18.12-mile distance in a time of 1 hour, 44 minutes, 48.00 seconds. Mary Tramazzo, 26, of Carthage topped the womens division and finished fourth overall in 2:01.30.50. The top local runner was second-place Blaine Zimmerman, 27, of Evans Mills.
The half marathon was won by Nick Webster, 24, of Latham. He clocked a time of 1:15:11.00. Paula Wiltse, 46, of Brockville, Ontario, captured the womens division in 1:20:07.50 and was fourth overall in that race.
The top local competitor in the half marathon was Watertowns Brittany Burns, 24, who finished third in the womens division and ninth overall.
Prize winnings of $1,812 were distributed among the top finishers. Participants also received specially designed 18.12 race medals.
Ledoux, who grew up near Boston, said one of the highlights of the race was a guy along the route dancing to the YMCA song early in the race.
Other entertainment included a little girl singing karaoke and a steel drum band. Support along the route and at the water stations included cheerleaders from the Watertown Red and Black semipro football team and local high schools.
We had runners coming up to me at the end who had run in other races, and they were like, This was far better, and they were so excited, Robare said. It definitely was a success, worth the time and effort that it took to pull it together.