High drama punctuates Victoria Marathon finishes

The 36th GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon provided a day of high drama.

Tisia Kiplangat was leading by a wide margin Sunday when he hit the wall, and the pavement, and began crawling, with about 500 metres remaining. That allowed fellow Kenyan and defending champion Daniel Kipkoech to pass him and win in two hours, 25 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Kiplangat, who was on a blistering course-record 1:06 pace at halfway and 1:41 at 32 kilometres, needed medical attention and had to be brought across the finish line on a stretcher.

“He is fine. He just went out too fast,” said Louise Hodgson-Jones, media liaison for the marathon. “Our medical team did a great job.”

Kipkoech agreed Kiplangat set an unrealistic pace as the latter stalked the course record of 2:13:42.

“I thought, you have to run aggressively, but [Kiplangat’s pace] is crazy,” said winner Kipkoech. “My legs were heavy, but I kept my pace.”

A break in the weather meant a spectacular oceanside course got a magnificent Sunday morning to match.

The capital lifted its veil on a day of dramatics in the women’s race, too.

Erin Burrett of Nanaimo had a first marathon to remember, overtaking defending champion Lioudmila Kortchaguina with 300 metres remaining to win the women’s marathon in 2:39:15 to Kortchaguina’s 2:39:36.

“I left everything out there on the road. I had nothing left to give,” said a spent Kortchaguina.

“It was one of my toughest races ever.”

Catrin Jones of Victoria was third in 2:44:28.

“At 11K, I thought to myself, I have a long way left,” said the champion, Burrett. “But I fought through it.”

And she tracked down the defending champion with the finish line in sight.

“There we were in the final stretch and there was money on the line and I have a high-altitude training camp coming up [and to pay for] in Flagstaff, Arizona,” said Burrett, who works as a health-care aid in Cedar.

The first-place prize is $4,000, the second-place is $1,500.

Also at stake was the $1,000 that goes to the top Canadian and both Burrett and Kortchaguina, a native of Russia who emigrated to Markham, Ont., 14 years ago, were eligible.

“My coach was out there directing me, and I screamed back and him told him where to go,” chuckled Burrett, about getting caught up in the emotion of the race.

Her successful marathon debut, after returning to running in 2009 following a few years off, has the Islander thinking big.

“Hopefully, I can eventually reach the Olympic standard,” said Burrett.

“I’ve run all my life. It’s my passion. If I couldn’t do this, life wouldn’t be the same.”

An official total of 9,067 runners registered, according to the final tally. Of those, 1,484 were for the marathon, 3,808 for the half-marathon, 2,688 for the 8K and 1,087 for the Thrifty Foods Kids Run.

Kipkoech last year added his name to the list of past Victoria marathon winners that have included the likes of Jon Brown, who twice placed fourth in the Olympics, and two-time Olympian Bruce Deacon. To repeat was sweet.

“I promised [fans and organizers] last year that I would return and I couldn’t be happier that I did,” said Kipkoech, who bases his North American running season out of Lethbridge, Alta..

Lamech Mokono, who set the course record of 2:13:42 in 2013, was second in 2:30:21 and Burnaby-based Oliver Utting third in 2:34:38.

Paul Kimugul of Kenya strode to victory in the men’s half-marathon in 1:05:00, while Olympian Malindi Elmore of Kelowna was the women’s half-marathon champion in 1:15:35.

Breaking the tape first in the men’s 8K was Nick Walker of Victoria in 26:16. The women’s champion was Lindsay Carson of Whitehorse in 27:32, with Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff of Victoria second in 27:40.

The starting chute was on Menzies behind the legislature and the finish line on Belleville Street in front of the buildings. Both provided a vivid, living canvas of human emotions as runners from Olympians to those simply pursuing personal goals tackled the various courses, all with their own reasons for doing so.

The mostly-seaside marathon route took the runners through downtown to Dallas Road to Fairfield into Oak Bay, with the turnaround in Uplands and then back along the same route. The half-marathon followed the marathon route until the turnaround at Quamichan and Cowichan streets and back down Richardson. The 8K was through James Bay along Dallas Road to Beacon Hill Park and back.

Thousands of supporters lined the course, clapping and cheering the appreciative runners.

“There was no monsoon like Saturday,” beamed Cathy Noel, the general manager and race director.

And what transpired at the end of both the men’s and women’s marathon races will go down in Victoria race lore.

“I can’t remember more dramatic finishes,” said Noel.

“We were cheering for [Kiplangat] to please stand up . . . please stand up . . . everyone was cheering for him to finish . . . but it was not to be.”

There were 413 runners out Sunday to snare qualifying times for the 2016 Boston Marathon. A total of 260 runners qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon from last year’s GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon, which was the second-best total for any Canadian race, behind only the Hamilton Marathon.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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