On A Cold And Wet Morning, Grandmas Marathon Has Its Closest Finish In Its 35 Year History
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I experienced firsthand the cold, wet conditions at the start of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. I stood in the rain with thousands of other runners waiting to start, but looking back it was something I’m glad I experienced. Like Cathy Kates, I finished the half with a personal best time due to a nice cold wind at my back and plenty of cloud cover.
While my legs are sore today, I was happy to again be a part of the race as well as the finish line festivities as a stage announcer. Who cares about weather, it was a great weekend and what a 35th running of Grandmas Marathon!
Victory belonged to Christopher Kipyego on Saturday morning, except for one thing. He hadn’t crossed the finish line of the 35th Grandma’s Marathon.
He stopped at the front of the electronic timing mat on Canal Park drive, about 60 feet short of the actual finish. The 37-year-old Kenyan was ready to celebrate when he saw race officials urging him to continue.
And when he did finish, the outcome was still uncertain. He was matched stride-for-stride by Ethiopia’s Teklu Deneke in a photo finish, a Grandma’s Marathon first.
Both were officially listed in
2 hours, 12 minutes, 17 seconds for
26.2 miles. Kipyego, runner-up last year, ran exactly 2:12:16.36 and Deneke was 2:12:16.56.
Two-tenths of a second.
“If I hadn’t miscalculated the finish line, I wouldn’t have had to worry about winning. When it was over, I looked over at (Deneke) and I didn’t know. (Executive race director Scott Keenan) came over and told me I had won,” said Kipyego. “Sometimes things happen like that in competition and if you don’t win, you have to accept it.”
The closest finish in race history, on one of the coolest days in race history, produced the most 2:12 finishes in race history. Four runners came in under 2:13. It was 54 degrees with a northeast tailwind of 13 mph near Two Harbors for the 7:30 a.m. start. It was 48 degrees by 9:30 a.m. as the leaders passed through downtown. There were 8,319 registered runners and
6,333 timed finishers, the most in three years.
“The weather was absolutely perfect. I don’t know how you could’ve made it any more perfect,” said Matt Gabrielson of St. Louis Park, Minn., who placed sixth in 2:13:28, setting a personal best by four minutes.
A few degrees warmer would’ve been nice, said East African entrants, who finished 1-through-4. Early leader Charles Munyeki of Kenya wore a stocking cap and long-sleeve shirt. Runners could see their breath along Lake Superior. However, they were spared the rain, which poured down and then stopped about 30 minutes before the race.
A lead group of 10 to 12 shared the workload, going through the half-marathon in 1:05:31. And while the weather was nearly identical to 1981, when Dick Beardsley set the still-standing course record of 2:09:37, no one pushed the pace through 17 miles. American Jeff Eggleston changed that.
He was patient early, then made a charge that startled the front-runners as they passed Brighton Beach at mile No. 18. He led for two miles.
“I knew I was going to catch them and I absolutely believed I could win,” said Eggleston, 26, who trains Flagstaff, Ariz., and won the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2:17:09 in the rain May 15. “We have a whole group of up-and-coming American runners, and we’re showing that we’re bridging the gap (with the East Africans).”
Eggleston forced a faster pace, yet by 21 miles he slipped to the back of a seven-runner group. Kenyan Sammy Malakwen took the pacesetter role, going 4:57 and 4:52 per mile through
23 miles. The group was four. By
24 miles it was three, and at 25 miles, as the course turns left off Superior Street onto Fifth Avenue West, just two remained.
They traded surges on the way around the DECC and down the straightaway.
Read the entire article and get full Grandmas Marathon coverage via Memorable race firsts mark Kipyego’s photo-finish win | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.