"The hills are still there."

So said a seasoned and rather weary veteran of New Milford's iconic eight-mile road race course Saturday soon after completing this year's shortened version.

The legendary course features the peerless ascent of Canterbury Hill late in the race and is known throughout the region as the toughest course around.

Yes, due to bridgework in Merryall, the host New Milford Parks & Recreation staff needed to shorten Saturday's 47th annual edition to 7.2 miles (from its actual distance of about 7.85 miles).

Yet by the time more than 300 finishers had completed the trek before appreciative crowds lining Main Street, nary a one was heard to say the course had been a cruise.

"It's still a challenge," most said, echoing the race's longtime motto, "Take The Challenge."

Mother Nature treated the eight-milers, and nearly 300 more who completed the concurrent 12th annual Village Fair Days five-kilometer race, to a beautiful morning.

The field was led by Abiyot Endale, 28, of the Bronx, N.Y., who clocked 36:23 for the 7.2 miles to outleg runnerup Bernard Mwangi, 24, of Schenectady, N.Y., by 28 seconds.

2013 Newtown High graduate Jake Feinstein fared well with a strong fourth-place performance, finishing in 37:46.

Alice Kamunya, 23, of Schenectady, perhaps was the top performer of the day with her overall fifth-place effort.

Her 39:42 time earned her women's honors and, prorated to the longer course, would easily have shattered the distaff record.

The 5K course attracted many youngsters, families and a few top runners who weren't up to "The Challenge."

Among them was Williams Sanders, 27, of Wethersfield, who clocked 16:30 for the relatively hill-free, shorter course to breeze to a 40-second victory over Mitchell Russo, 19, of Newtown.

It marked the third straight year the talented Sanders has dominated the 5K.

Nina Zweig, 17, of Sherman, claimed women's laurels with her quick 20:58 tour of the 5K route.

Among the divisional champions were New Milford's Nicole McCarthy (51:35) in the women's 15-18 age group; Wendi O'Donnell (1:02:32) in the women's 50-59 age division; and Joan Kane (59:54) in the women's 60-69 age division.

Former New Milford residents Jennifer Marden (52:17), of Beacon Falls, and Kevin Harrington (45:33) earned respective honors in the women's 19-29 age division and the men's 30-39 age division.

The races were co-sponsored for a 17th straight year by The Greater New Milford Spectrum.

For complete race and

divisional results, visit

www.greystoneracing.net.

For more photos, see updates at www.newmilfordspectrum.com.