Jonathan Pitchford, center, approaches the finish line to win the men's division at the Seven Mile Bridge Run Saturday, April 6, 2019, near Marathon, Fla. The event on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway's longest bridge attracted 1,500 participants. The 16-year-old Pitchford, a resident of Marathon, finished the course over the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico in 39 minutes flat. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

It was almost too much to hope for … that another young local would take the title of 7 Mile Bridge Run for the second year in a row. But that’s exactly what happened when Jonathan Pitchford, 16, broke the tape in 39 minutes. 

Of course, the signs were auspicious. In November 2018, Pitchford placed second in the state cross country meet, with a time of 15:58 in the 5k over hilly terrain. It was a half-minute faster than his teammate, Aydan Child, 18, who placed first in last year’s 7 Mile Bridge Run with a time of 40:01.

“We hoped that he could, but we didn’t want to put undue pressure on him,” said Jonathan’s mom, Megan Richardson. 

The whole family was on the course. His sister, Shannon, sang the national anthem before the race. Jonathan’s twin brother, Owen, also ran, as did Megan. His stepfather, Dean Richardson, had the best view, though. He was holding the finish tape and his arms shot into the air a nanosecond after Jonathan crashed through. There was one other “family member” on the course: Aydan. He and the twins call themselves the “triplets.” Aydan placed fifth with a time of 42:39 and Owen placed ninth with a time of 43:32.

How did it feel to win the race? How did it feel to best Aydan, his role model?

“He is still my role model. We always run together,” said Jonathan. “It’s good to compete with him, and have him compete with me. It’s fun to win too … but he knows what that’s like.”

Jonathan and his brother, Owen, started running when they were about eight years old. They competed in local 5ks held in and around St. Augustine, Florida. 

“We wouldn’t train; we would just pop out on these 5k runs,” Jonathan said. “We would come first and second in our age group. The next day was complete soreness.” Jonathan’s mom revealed she would make the boys take “turns” to come in first place. 

“That’s when they were really little,” she said, laughing.

Jonathan joined the cross country team in seventh grade and then the track team in eight grade when it was formed at Marathon Middle High School. The MHS cross country team has made it to state level competition four years in a row. And, last year, they also sent the team of core runners to the state track meet, including Jonathan.

“Jon ran with style,” said his track and cross country coach James Murphy. “He paced himself and waited for the right moment to take over.” And then he added, “Next year, we’re going for the three-peat.”

 

 

How did you feel at the start of the race? I felt good. I was ready. We — Aydan, Owen and me — warmed up. At the starting line it was still cool from the sun being down. I had spent the week getting in the mindset, visualizing what I wanted to do.

What were you thinking about during the run? Oh, I don’t know. I was thinking about keeping my pace steady. I was running in third place for a while, and when I went over the hump, I got to second place. And a mile later, I was in first place, right after the fifth mile marker. I just kept working on catching the people in front of me.

How many years have you run this race? This is my third year.

What shoes did you race in? Nike Zoom Fly.

What’s the significance of the shirt? Ayden, Owen and I wore matching Nike singlets, but in different colors.

What’s your race day nutrition? Pedialyte and a granola bar.

What’s the easiest way to tell you apart from your twin, Owen? Well, if you get really close, Owen has a freckle under his eye. From farther away, we both wear watches but mine is black. 

From the residents of Marathon and the Keys Weekly, a heartfelt congratulations to Jonathan Pitchford. And also a big thank you to the founders of the 7 Mile Bridge Run who, 38 years ago, laid the groundwork that would one day become the proving ground for really talented locals.

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