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Great Race: Squirrel Hill woman repeats, Alabama man wins for second time

| Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, 12:24 p.m.

In 2013, two days before the Pittsburgh Great Race, Jennifer Bigham was helping her husband train when her water broke, right at the starting line for the annual event.

That day, her and her husband, Jeffrey, welcomed their son, Wells, to the world.

This year at the 40th annual Great Race, Bigham, 36, of Squirrel Hill placed first in the women's 10K with a time of 35 minutes, 23 seconds.

It marks Bigham's second consecutive victory in an event that holds a significant place in her family's history.

“That was the goal for me,” Bigham said. “When I won last year, I said that I'm going to have to win this every year I possibly can. I want to keep on as long as I can and stay around that top spot.”

“I felt a lot worse than I did last year. I don't do well in heat or humidity, but everyone is dealing with the same thing. It just feels awesome to run these roads that are usually filled with cars. You drive the Boulevard of the Allies, and you're just angry in rush hour traffic, and today, it's just so joyful to run it. It's so special.”

While Bigham and her husband participated in the race, their three children were there for support.

“They were cheering. I live close to the start line, so I got to see them out there and that was really nice,” Bigham said.

Nicole Hilton of McDonald finished second in the 10K in 36:41, and Leilani Rios of Beaumont, Calif., took third in 36:57.

In the men's 10K, 2015 champion Samuel Mueller returned to reclaim his crown after missing last year's event with an injury. The 25-year-old from Auburn, Ala., took first in 31:32.

For Mueller, it was his first race since being diagnosed with a triple stress fracture in his fibula in March. On doctor's orders, he couldn't run for three months. Training began once again for the Pittsburgh native in July, and showed he is back in top form.

“I felt pretty good,” Mueller said. “My leg felt pretty good, through 5K of the race. I didn't hit the time I wanted. I was about 10 seconds off, but I still got my personal record time somehow in the end.”

“I just focused on that fifth mile, that hill. I kept looking back because I was afraid people would catch up to me, but I just continued pushing it because I didn't want to give up the lead.”

Mueller said he planned to celebrate his win in Pittsburgh-like fashion.

“I'm going to watch the Steeler game with my grandfather, pap-pap,” he said. “Maybe we'll enjoy some ice cream, and then I'll be off back to veterinary school tomorrow with a 7 a.m. flight.”

Kenneth Sullivan of Lakewood, Ohio, took second in 31:37, and Caleb Muller of Pittsburgh placed third in 31:39.

The 5K men's race was won by Clay Burnett of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, in 14:41. Stewart Jones of Bellevue claimed second in 15:17, and Adam Smith of Pittsburgh was third in 16:00.

Natalie Bower of Pittsburgh won the women's 5K in 17:22. Lisa Burnett of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, took second in 17:25, and Susan Gogniat of Pittsburgh placed third in 17:56.

A combined 12,000 registered runners participated, slightly down from last year's 13,978.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

Jennifer Bigham wins the women's 10k with a time of 35:23 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Jennifer Bigham wins the women's 10k with a time of 35:23 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Samuel Mueller of Auburn, Ala., wins the men's 10k with a time of 31:02 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Samuel Mueller of Auburn, Ala., wins the men's 10k with a time of 31:02 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Samuel Mueller of Auburn AL wins the men's 10k with a time of 31:02 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Samuel Mueller of Auburn AL wins the men's 10k with a time of 31:02 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jennifer Bigham of Pittsburgh wins the women's 10k with a time of 35:23 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Jennifer Bigham of Pittsburgh wins the women's 10k with a time of 35:23 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Clay Burnett of Chagrin Falls, OH wins the men's 5k with a time of 15:06 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Clay Burnett of Chagrin Falls, OH wins the men's 5k with a time of 15:06 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Natalie Bower of Pittsburgh wins the women's 5k with a time of 17:23 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Natalie Bower of Pittsburgh wins the women's 5k with a time of 17:23 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Runners sporting a bride and groom costume come into the home stretch of the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Runners sporting a bride and groom costume come into the home stretch of the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jodie White of Cranberry cheers on her husband during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Jodie White of Cranberry cheers on her husband during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Clay Burnett of Chagrin Falls, OH wins the men's 5k with a time of 15:06 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Clay Burnett of Chagrin Falls, OH wins the men's 5k with a time of 15:06 during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Runners come into the home stretch of the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Runners come into the home stretch of the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Tommy Cowell keeps cool in the misting tent after running the 10k  during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Tommy Cowell keeps cool in the misting tent after running the 10k during the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Runners come into the home stretch of the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Runners come into the home stretch of the 40th annual Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at Point State Park.
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