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January 01. 2014 8:03PM

Millennium Mile draws almost 1,800 runners, including a last-minute registrant who won

Christine Shaw of Manchester and Peter Najem of Derry are this year's winners of the Millennium Mile. This year's New Year's Day race drew nearly 1,800 runners. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

LONDONDERRY — For Manchester runner Christine Shaw, 2014 is already a year of firsts.

As the fastest female runner in Wednesday's 15th annual Millennium Mile, Shaw, 28, said her decision to compete in the popular event for the very first time was spur-of-the-moment.

"I registered earlier this morning," Shaw laughed. She completed the 1-mile course in 4 minutes 58 seconds, placing 34th in the race overall.

Shaw, whose husband, Philip, came in 14th place Wednesday, placed second in the Shamrock Shuffle in Manchester last March.

Peter Najem, 27, of Derry won the race, completing the course in 3:58.55. Wednesday's victory was Najem's third Millennium Mile triumph. He also took first in the 11th and 13th running of the race, the former in late December 2009, the latter on New Year's Day in 2012.

Berwick, Maine, resident Dylan Lafond followed closely at Najem's heels, finishing in 3:58.78.

Lafond, a graduate of Manchester High School Central, runs for the University of Mount Love in North Carolina. He was the New Hampshire Union Leader's All-State Runner of the Year in cross country in 2011.

Finishing third in the men's division was Antoine Gisore, 24, of Concord. Gisore completed the race in 4:09.

Finishing second and third in the women's division, respectively, were Casey Hecox, 16, of Manchester (5:02.20), and Sarah Lagasse, 24, of Rehoboth, Mass., (5:02.86).

Braving the 22-degree temperature, a record 1,800 athletes of varying ages and abilities participated in race, run on a downhill course on Mammoth Road from Londonderry High School to the intersection just past the Mack's Apples farm store.

The race continues to grow in popularity each year and is the first in the eight-race MVP Health Care Millennium Running Series.

Last year's Millennium Mile drew 1,300 runners.

It was 14 years ago when event co-founder John Mortimer, his best friend, Matt Downin, and Downin's brother, Andy, all former college All-America runners, pondered a unique way to ring in New Year's Day 2000.

According to Mortimer, who won three national high school track championships and a dozen state championships during his days at Londonderry High School in the early 1990s, about 120 runners participated in the first Millennium Mile.

Proceeds from race registrations will be used towards a college scholarship Mortimer founded in memory of his parents, Jack and June Mortimer. June Mortimer lost her battle with cancer in 2004, while Jack Mortimer died of cancer 2½ years later.

Since 2004, the scholarship has been awarded each spring to one deserving college-bound student athlete.

The event also encourages local youth to embrace active lifestyles via its New Year Youth Fitness Challenge incentive.

This year Millennium Running will make cash donations to the three local schools with the largest number of students who participated in Wednesday's race.

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