Marathon is anybody’s race |

Marathon is anybody’s race

If Lake Tahoe Marathon Director Les Wright was desperate for entrants, he might say something like “It’s going to be a wide-open event” to pick up prerace registration.

But the seventh-year marathon isn’t hurting for entry fees. In fact, including the other weekend races, marathon entries have nearly increased 10 fold since the event began in 1996.

However, Sunday’s marathon is aching for 2001 champions to return to defend their titles.

As of Monday afternoon, former South Shore resident Katie Gengler is the only returning champion and she is reportedly considering entering the half marathon.

Gengler of Mariposa, Calif., won the women’s marathon for the third straight time last year, finishing the scenic 26.2-mile run in 3 hours, 10 minutes, 10 seconds. That was 8 minutes slower than her record-setting time of 3:02:46 in 2000.

Joseph Ngunjiri of Nyahururu, Kenya, won’t be back to defend his 2001 overall title. Ngunjiri hadn’t planned to enter the Lake Tahoe Marathon last year until race week, following a course mixup in Victoria, British Columbia, which prevented him from winning a marathon there. The Kenyan opened a huge lead early in the Victoria race, but then was improperly routed with half-marathon runners, leading to his disqualification.

A sympathetic Wright welcomed him to try his Lake Tahoe event and he reciprocated by winning the marathon in a record time of 2:30:55.

“That was a real fluke,” Wright said. “I’m sure marathoners are worried about him coming back.

“Somebody running 2:50 could win the whole thing and 3:10 for women.”

In past years Wright has done his part to encourage defending champions to return.

Past men’s and women’s marathon winners receive complimentary housing for two nights and free entry into any of the event’s races.

Other elite runners are enticed by the promise of being reimbursed for housing and entry fees if they should win. Wright doesn’t offer appearance fees.

Like past years, the winner of the battle of the sexes receives $1,000. Women will receive a 27-minute head start on the men, with the first to cross the finish line receiving the largest purse. The battle of the sexes runner-up will earn $500.

The purse, which wasn’t tendered when the event originated, has obviously made the marathon more competitive.

“I can tell you I’m more focused on the girls that I’m racing against, but believe me, I like that big check at the end if I win,” said Gengler prior to last year’s race.

Monday was the final chance to enter online. Runners have several options to enter from here on out. They can fax an entry form to Wright at (530) 544-6061 or enter at the Sport & Fitness Expo at the Horizon Casino Resort on Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. or from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Marathon entry fees will remain $75 until the day of the race. Race-day registration is at Camp Richardson and at the starting line in Tahoe City.

Prior to race day, entry fees for the half marathon are $55, $30 for the 5K and $40 for the 10K. The half marathon will rise to $60 and the 10K to $45. Saturday’s 5K will remain $30.

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