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Not just running: Event offers something for everyone

Steve Yingling
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Tim Bilbrey emerges from the chilly water of Lake Tahoe to capture first place in the 1-mile swim at Zephyr Cove on Thursday.
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By now, runners may think the Lake Tahoe Marathon is what it is – an 11-year-old marathon.

Hardly.

With other marathon directors offering tantalizing deals and lower elevations, race director Les Wright has been cognizant of ensuring his marathon has something for everybody.



Naturally the 26.2-mile marathon is the marquee event, but when there also are golf and cycling events to choose from, the LTM has the pull to draw a variety of athletes.

“I would like it to be a little bit bigger,” Wright said. “Our biggest thing is word of mouth and me going out to expos around the country. That’s where we get (new) people coming in.”



Wright insists that despite the yearly infusion of new events, he is only breaking even. Volunteers and cooperation from the city have kept his overhead low, but a total of 2,500 participants hasn’t made him rich either.

“The people who benefit, the tourist industry, have to put some money into it,” Wright said. “We’ve got a great event, so we’ve got to get the marketing people to use it and take advantage of it.”

Wright estimates that his weeklong event generates 6,000 room nights for the Lake Tahoe area.

Despite his struggles to turn a profit, don’t expect Wright to finally curb his athletic offerings during future marathon weeks. With Saturday’s ultra and the Tahoe Super Triple marathons the latest brainchilds of Wright, the LTM is fast becoming known for offering the toughest tests in the sport.

Still, “a Saturday morning run you will never forget” remains the corner stone of the week.

As of midweek, 600 runners were registered in the traditional marathon, while only 25 had signed up for the ultra, three for the 130-mile Super Triple and 66 for the 6-year-old Triple.

“A lot of these people use these runs as tune-ups for bigger ultraruns, especially on the third day when there is a lot of people around because of the marathon crowd,” said Autin Angell, an organizer for the ultramarathons. “A lot of times people don’t care about their times for the triple because they are using it as a stepping stone for the Western States, Leadville 100 or Badwater. On those runs, you’re running by yourself in the middle of nowhere. Here, they aren’t running by themselves, so that kind of makes it a different experience.”

Two new champions will be crowned in the marathon as last year’s winners Samuel Githinji of Kenya and Kristi Arthur of Reno aren’t entered. They provided great theater last year as Githinji passed Arthur a few hundred yards from the finish line to win the battle of the sexes in 2 hours, 44 minutes and 18 seconds. Wright gives the elite women’s marathoners close to a 30-minute head start (the difference between the men’s and women’s world records) and the first to cross the finish line at Pope Beach receives $1,000.

Wright has cast Tony Torres of Cedar Glen, Calif., as the favorite. Torres won the 2005 San Francisco Marathon and was a close second to the Kenyan last year. His time was 2:48:43.

Kenyan John Weru, who won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004, is also expected to compete. Weru missed a potential threepeat last year because of a calf injury, and Wright doesn’t expect him to contend for this year’s title because he has been idle for too long.

Joseph Maina Ngunjiri, the 2001 winner, still owns the course record at 2:30:55.0.

Besides the marathon, several other story lines should be interesting to follow this weekend. Johan Oosthuizen of South Africa is attempting to break an 18-year-old world record for fastest aggregate time for marathons on three successive days. The record belongs to Raymond Hubbard of England at 8:22:31. Oosthuizen’s best marathon time is 2:20.

“I asked a friend of mine who lives and runs ultras in South Africa, and he knows Johan and says he is for real,” Wright said.

Pam Reed’s participation in the 72-mile ultra should also create interest. Reed, 45, is a two-time winner of the Badwater 135.

Wright also anticipates that the record for the 72-mile cycling race around the lake will fall on Friday. The current record is 3:01:21. Anyone breaking the mark will receive a $250 gift certificate at Sports Ltd.

– Tribune staff writer Jeremy Evans contributed to this story.

11th Annual Lake Tahoe Marathon

Friday: Tahoe Triple Leg #2, 35-mile bike ride, 72-mile bike ride

Saturday: Marathon, 72-mile ultramarathon, half-marathon, 10K

Sunday: Kids’ fun run, 5K

Registration: Race-day registration permitted at the start in Tahoe City for marathon and marathon relays. For other events, sign up at the expo on Friday at the Horizon Casino Resort

Parking: Finish-line parking in the campground next to the Pope Beach is $10. This is for spectators, family and friends of the runners. Free parking at Miller’s Outpost at the “Y” for spectators, volunteers, and 10K local runners. Free shuttle bus service from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. No parking is permitted along Highway 89 near the Pope Beach finish area

Road closure: Highway 89 will be closed north of Camp Richardson near Spring Creek Road northbound from 7 a.m. until approximately 2 p.m.

For more information: http://www.laketahoemarathon.com


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