Ryan Fee has run more than a dozen race courses of varying lengths and difficulties, but the Great Cow Harbor 10K Run remains by far the Sayville man's favorite.
"The town involvement in this race is phenomenal," Fee said, alluding to residents who lined Northport streets, offering water and encouragement. "Any time you're struggling and want to give up, having people cheer you on definitely helps."
An estimated 4,500 people ran in the 38th annual race Saturday morning, attracting athletes from across the nation.
Parker Stinson, 23, of Eugene, Oregon, the overall winner, had the fastest finish in seven years with a time of 29 minutes, 12 seconds, race officials said.
Brianne Nelson, 34, of Golden, Colorado, won the women's division with a time of 32:53, beating her 2014 first-place finish time of 33:05.
Cow Harbor stands out among the thousands of races nationwide every year, said Bart Yasso, a writer and chief running officer for Runner's World magazine, which several years ago named Cow Harbor one of the country's top 100 races.
Yasso, who was not at Saturday's race but has attended previous contests, said a key appeal is that the run attracts both elite and slower runners "and treats them the same."
The generally temperate mid-September weather and sweeping hilltop views of Northport Harbor help, he said.
Mary Thomson, 33, of Farmingdale, said the hilly terrain is one of the pluses. "It challenges your body, and there's good competition," said Thomson, sweating as she drank a cup of water shortly after the run.
The event will raise $20,000 for the Special Olympics. Some participants independently raised money for other charities through sponsorships.
The race, organized by Great Cow Harbor 10-Kilometer Run Inc., is held the same weekend as the village-sponsored Great Cow Harbor Day.
The weekend commemorates the village's former name, The Great Cow Harbor, and agricultural past.
Sunday's events include a parade down Main Street and rides, games, arts and crafts vendors and other attractions at Northport Village Park.
Northport Mayor George Doll said the race helps pump money into the local economy and gives the village invaluable exposure.
"This kind of puts us on the map," he said.