Kipkoech, Kortchaguina win Victoria Marathon

Although it’s a qualifier for the Boston Marathon, the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon doesn’t feature a Heartbreak Hill. But its undulating course has a few slow rises that can sap runners if they aren’t careful.

The men’s and women’s champions of the 35th Victoria Marathon struggled mightily Sunday to cross the finish line — Daniel Kipkoech in two hours, 20 minutes, four seconds and Lioudmila Kortchaguina in 2:41:39.

That was despite a cool and overcast morning but with no rain or wind — ideal for running — that greeted the nearly 10,000 runners who contested the marathon, half-marathon, 8K and kids’ distances.

“That last hill [the slow rise from Ross Bay to Clover Point] killed me … destroyed me mentally,” said Kipkoech, a native of Kenya.

“I was so finished, but [the cheering supporters along the course] were carrying me,” added the Lethbridge-based runner, who last weekend won the Montreal Rock and Roll Half-Marathon.

“I tried to push and beat the course record. I wanted to go 2:12 or 2:11 but didn’t reach my goal. But I am so happy to win.” The course record of 2:13:42 was set last year by Lamech Mokono.

It was only the second marathon for Kipkoech, a converted 10,000-metre runner, following his third-place finish in Calgary earlier this year.

“This [Victoria] is a 2:10 course. Maybe next time when I come … . I eventually want to run a career personal best of 2:08 or 2:07. I know I can do it. Victoria today was a stepping stone.”

Two-time champion Thomas Omwenga, a native of Kenya based in Hamilton, Ont., was second in 2:27:09 and Oliver Utting of Burnaby third in 2:29:02.

Kortchaguina also needed a few minutes to compose herself after winning the women’s marathon.

“I survived,” said the native of Russia, based in Thornhill, Ont. “This course was one of the toughest.”

And she has run more than 50 marathons.

“In the car [in Saturday’s drive through], it didn’t look so bad,” said the 43-year-old Kortchaguina, whose overall victory also snared the women’s masters title.

“There’s no one big climb, but it’s got a lot of little hills. There are no even stretches. It’s always up and down, up and down. But the crowd was amazing and was yelling so hard for me.”

As far as her time, Kortchaguina shrugged and smiled: “I won.”

At the elite level, that matters more than clocking.

Eva Vail from Portland, Oregon, was second in 2:45:54, and two-time and defending champion Catrin Jones of Victoria finished third in 2:46:51.

Kipkoech and Kortchaguina both earned $4,000 for their victories.

A total of 9,982 runners registered for the 35th annual event. Of those, 1,900 registered to run the marathon, 4,499 the half-marathon, 2,724 the 8K and 859 the Thrifty Foods Kids Run.

Willy Kimosop, another native of Kenya based with the running group in Lethbridge, won the Victoria men’s half-marathon Sunday in 1:06:00 with Dancan Kasia of Etobicoke, Ont., second in 1:08:24 and Ramiro Guillen of Goleta, California, third in 1:08:32. Anne-Marie Madden of Vancouver captured the women’s half-marathon in 1:16:35, ahead of the second- and third-place finishers from Victoria — Marilyn Arsenault (1:17:04) and Lucy Smith (1:19:48).

Former UVic Vikes running star and Canadian international runner Geoff Martinson won the men’s 8K in 23:38 with Kevin Friesen of Vancouver second in 24:35 and Trevor Hofbauer of Calgary third in 25:10. Lindsay Carson of  Whitehorse was the women’s 8K champion in 27:15 with Sarah Macpherson of Victoria second in 29:29 and X-Terra world champion Melanie McQuaid of Victoria third in 29:56.

Showing he still has it, two-time Olympic marathon runner Bruce Deacon of Victoria was seventh in the 8K in 25:44. “I’m not as serious as I once was in a different time in life,” said Deacon, a Pan Am Games medallist.

“But you’re still a competitor, and this is a life-long sport,” said Deacon, who now coaches the Prairie Inn Harriers youth team.

The sport-for-life vibe was evident everywhere Sunday on the roads of the capital. “Sixty to 70 percent of the runners are from off-Island, and they are buying condos,” quipped race director Rob Reid, when he addressed one of the several marathon functions held over the weekend.

Reid was again in his familiar spot Sunday giving each runner a high-five as they crossed the finish line.

“With 1,500 volunteers, all the pieces are dialed in … from aid stations to marshalling,” he said. “I like to tell the people coming off the Coho [ferry from Washington state]:   ‘Welcome to Victoria. We do this every Sunday.’”

As usual, many of the best stories were a long way behind the elite runners and in the back of the pack.

Anne Marsh received a huge ovation from the crowd after finishing the 8K on crutches. She was near death last year when rushed to the hospital with a perforated bowel and has endured four surgeries since.

“I’ve been athletically challenged my whole life, but now I’m walking for life,” she said. “I had hit the wall today, but the crowd spurred me on. It really gives you a rush when you reach the finish line.”

Calgary siblings Marcus and Morgan Meneghetti ran the half-marathon in support of their mother, Brenda, who ran it after losing 65 pounds over the past year. It was her first running event in a decade, since doing the San Diego Half-Marathon in 2004.

“I had gotten so far out of shape … and I want to live and be around for my kids, and do things with them,” she said, wiping away tears at the finish line. “She’s a Super Mom,” said daughter Morgan.

Morgan Meneghetti has her own goals: “The New York City Marathon is on my bucket list. This is the first step.”

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