Kenyan sets marathon course record |

Kenyan sets marathon course record

Steve Yingling

A week ago, Joseph Ngunjiri of Nyahururu, Kenya, was running so fast that Victoria, B.C., race officials thought he was a half marathoner. They misdirected him off the marathon course and onto the half marathon route.

Consequently, the 33-year-old missed out on his probable first-place marathon paycheck.

Ngunjiri made sure that didn’t happen again Sunday in the Tahoe Daily Tribune Lake Tahoe Marathon. Ngunjiri ran by himself after the opening 3 kilometers en route to a course-record time of 2 hours, 31 minutes and 55 seconds.

“Today I was very careful … very careful about that,” said Ngunjiri, who collected a $1,000 first-place check. “I was comfortable here.”

It was Ngunjiri’s third marathon triumph of the year.

“This one was a hard one, though,” he said. “I could not go faster because I was running myself, but if I could have gotten someone to push with me, I could have make a good time.”

Ngunjiri, however, did get a push from a wheelchair racer Jerry Martin during the final quarter mile. The winner barely broke the tape before Martin.

“I thought he was coming with another guy and was going to outkick me,” Ngunjiri said.

The Kenyan’s only discomfort came over the final 3 miles when a callous formed on his big toe.

Chris Gilbert of Santa Rosa, Calif., was second in 2:44:50, while last year’s winner Tim Julian of Bend, Ore., came in third in 2:55:03.

“I ran my race, but I had to work hard for it,” said Gilbert, running his first marathon in four years. “I could really feel the altitude the whole way. In Santa Rosa I’d be in 20 feet of altitude.”

Gilbert caught a glimpse of Ngunjiri early in the race, and never really gave winning the race a thought.

“They went out a lost faster than I wanted to, so I hung back on my pace and hoped that I could catch people and managed to reel all but him in,” Gilbert said.

Katie Gengler of Miraposa, Calif., was able to win her third straight women’s title, but the former South Shore resident lost her battle of the sexes award to Ngunjiri by 13 minutes.

“I met Joseph (Saturday) at Embassy Suites, and when I saw him, I was like, ‘Kiss the 1,000 bucks goodbye.’ I figured he’d pass me on mile six.

“I was very happy for him,” said Gengler, who was actually passed on mile 17.

Women started 27 minutes ahead of the men in the unique battle of the sexes format.

Two-thirds of the way into the 26.2-miler, Gengler was resigned to settling for second place, trailing Christina Castelanelli of Corvallis, Ore., by 400 yards.

“At mile 13 I started to get happy. I was like, ‘End this,’ it’s too much pressure to come back as defending champion.”

But then the leader became sick, allowing Gengler to become the frontrunner for good.

“I had no choice but to let her go because she was kicking my butt on the hills,” said Gengler, who received $500. “I think she had stomach problems, and on the downhills I passed her and just finished strong.

“I feel sorry for her because she probably deserved to win.”

A 16-year-old won the half marathon.

Mike Seegot, a junior at Los Plumas High in Oroville, Calif., gave new meaning to his cross country coach’s pleading for weekend roadwork by finishing the 13.1-mile race in 1:20.

“He’d love it,” Seegot said.

Seegot said the altitude had no impact on his race.

“I think people complain more about the altitude than it actually affects you,” Seegot said. “I don’t see any difference.”

Joy Ulickey of Walnut Creek, Calif., claimed the women’s half marathon title in 1:35.

“I haven’t won a race in a while, so it was good,” Ulickey said. “There were a lot of tough downhills, so I tried not to push those too fast.”

Brett Leonard won the men’s 10K in 34:58, with Gilberto Ramos of the South Shore finishing fourth in 40:11. Sara Gigliotti of San Francisco won the women’s title in 42:01.

Although he’ll be cleaning up from his sixth marathon for days to come, race director Les Wright was pleased with the way it came off.

“It was our best, lots of good comments and thank yous, and it ran real smooth,” Wright said.

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