Chugiak's Bob Davis, a 54-year-old running his 16th or 17th marathon, was about nine miles from winning his first marathon when he thought his chance at victory rushed by him.
"Somebody with no sweat on them, looking completely fresh, went by me like it was nothing," Davis said. "I said, 'The only thing you have to worry about is getting lost.' He said, 'No, I'm in the relay.'"
The four-person relay team named the Red Goat Runners was the only thing to beat Davis across the marathon finish line at the second annual Kenai River Marathon on Sunday. Davis' victory was half of a sweep for the over-50 crowd: 52-year-old Jane Lanford of Fairbanks grabbed the women's title. Davis finished in 3 hours, 4 minutes and 35 seconds to defeat 36-year-old Skyview cross country coach Kent Peterson by a shade under 22 minutes, while Lanford crossed the line at 3:43:02 to top 40-year-old Mary Rowen by just under six minutes.
Sam Hill, a 29-year-old graduate of Nikiski High School, won the half marathon in 1:13:07, beating fellow Anchorage runner John Clark, 47, by just over five minutes. The half marathon title on the women's side went to Terri Saito, 28, who finished at 1:53:02 to defeat 56-year-old Cathy Stevens by about five minutes.
Davis ran in Humpy's Marathon in Anchorage on Aug. 18. A friend who had done the Kenai River Marathon in its inaugural year told Davis of the mostly flat, paved, 26.2-mile course that starts in Kenai, goes to Soldotna on Bridge Access Road and Kalifornsky Beach Road, then returns to Kenai on the Kenai Spur Highway. Davis jumped on the opportunity. His thinking: Why waste getting into condition on just one marathon?
"I'm well-suited to running on pavement," Davis said. "I train mostly on pavement. I'm not a good hill runner. When I get into a rhythm, I can really crank on the flat stuff."
The course allowed Davis to post his fastest marathon time in at least six or seven years. Sunday's event had 68 runners finish, including each of the four-person relay teams. That is nearly identical to the number of runners participating last year.
Davis said that race officials told him the course will be certified next year, meaning it can be used to qualify for events like the Boston Marathon.
"This course is fast," he said. "People will want to use it to qualify for Boston. I think that will double the marathon field."
While Davis said he would try to get back and defend his title, Lanford said it would be tough for her to do the marathon again. That's because Lanford's marathon of choice is the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, which this year was held on Sept. 15. Lanford has done the marathon, known for its grueling hills, 11 times.
She also had raced in every marathon in Alaska at least once until last year, when the new Kenai River Marathon left a hole in her resume.
"I had to run in it so I could still say I'd run in every marathon in Alaska," said Lanford, who added that, to her knowledge, Alaska had 10 marathons.
Lanford knew that two weeks was not enough time to recover from the Equinox Marathon, so she was not sure how her body would respond on Sunday.
"I was pleasantly surprised," she said. "I didn't feel it a whole lot."
Lanford said the second half of the marathon was more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
"I loved the fall colors," Lanford said. "It was a good excuse to come down to Kenai. I've been here only once before and I've lived in Fairbanks for 14 years."
While Davis and Lanford were just coming off marathons, Hill and Clark were building for the New York City Marathon, which will be on Nov. 4.
"I didn't know of any other races that I could do before New York City," Hill said. "I didn't want to have two months between races."
While this was Hill's last race before New York City, Clark has one other race before the marathon.
"I had to get in a hard workout today, while he had to get in a hard, hard workout," Clark said. "He needed to get more out of this than I did, but that didn't matter. I still couldn't have beaten him today."
It is the second year Clark has used the Kenai race to prepare for New York City. Hill was injured last year in the month leading to New York City and did the race on Advil and guts, not training.
"This is a nice event for the end of year," said Clark, who retired before this season after coaching Dimond's cross country team for 20 years but still manages Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage. "There's not too many chances to race after this. Weather conditions are going to deteriorate pretty quickly."
Saito's husband, Tristan, did the marathon last year while Terri sat out because she was pregnant. This year, it was her turn.
"I wanted to see if I could still do it after having three kids," she said.
Saito more than did it, she did it better than any other woman. Saito ran cross country at North Pole and did the Equinox Marathon after high school. Her running career then went to the sideline for her family.
"I just want to thank my husband and three kids for supporting me in this race," she said.
The winning relay team of Red Goat Runners consisted of central peninsula runners Mark Blanning, Jim Danielson, Steve Gilles and Paul Ostrander. Danielson got the team together with the idea of defeating a relay team of Skyview runners, which was not able to enter the race, but also for camaraderie and good times.
"It's great to have a community event to get people out so late in the year," Ostrander said. "There's a good contigent of runners on the peninsula. It's nice to have events for them to do."
Kenai River Marathon
Women's half marathon (13.1 miles)
1. Terri Saito, 1 hour, 53 minutes, 2 seconds; 2. Cathy Stevens, 1:58:04; 3. Angie Brennan, 2:00:07; 4. Vera Hershey, 2:01:55; 5. Ivy O'Guinn, 2:06:40; 6. Michaela Hutchison, 2:06:40; 7. Angie Nelson, 2:08:49; 8. Barbara Belluomini, 2:08:57; 9. Caroline Ritchie, 2:16:29; 10. Marylu Williams, 2:24:41; 11. Karlene Meyers, 2:28:05; 12. Maria Sweppy, 2:35:19; 13. Diane Little Eagle, 3:37:42.
Men's half marathon (13.1 miles)
1. Sam Hill, 1:13:07; 2. John Clark, 1:18:09; 3. Tommy Honer, 1:22:04; 4. David Johnston, 1:24:59; 5. Evan Hone, 1:25:01; 6. Doug Kaaihue, 1:28:17; 7. Bill Coghill, 1:31:05; 8. Andrew Richie, 1:32:10; 9. Steve Bainbridge, 1:34:03; 10. Hunter Jackinsky, 1:35:33; 11. Tyler Maxwell, 1:43:33; 12. Michael Stangel, 1:44:03; 13. Andrew Haas, 1:45:11; 14. James Sprott, 1:48:46; 15. Mitch Mesa, 1:51:56; 16. Bradley Richie, 1:54:10; 17. Jeff Belluomini, 1:58:14; 18. Jamie Nelson, 2:08:49; 19. Ray Schatz, 2:22:40.
Women's marathon (26.2 miles)
1. Jane Lanford, 3:43:02; 2. Mary Rowen, 3:48:56; 3. Jean Bielawski, 4:06:38; 4. Renee Marcionette, 4:37:27; 5. Joan Nelson, 6:10:14.
Men's marathon (26.2 miles)
1. Bob Davis, 3:04:35; 2. Kent Peterson, 3:26:18; 3. Randy Weist, 3:40:21; 4. Peter Mitchell, 3:40:21; 5. Scott Moon, 4:13:06; 6. Ted McKenney, 4:33:42; 7. Ron Nelson, 6:10:15.
Marathon teams (26.2 miles)
1. Red Goat Runners, 2:53:04; 2. Team SOHI, 3:29:12; 3. Second Win, 4:00:13; 4. Team ???, 4:00:18; 5. Losers, 4:15:33; 6. MailCall, 4:41:13.
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