Unique battle of sexes format gets competitive juices flowing
If the top Lake Tahoe Marathon women’s runner doesn’t come into Tim Julian’s view as he nears Camp Richardson at noon Sunday, he may start muttering to himself, “Not again!”
The 31-year-old marathon runner from Bend, Ore., still bristles a bit when recalling how he couldn’t quite make up the 28-minute head-start the women entries received in the unique battle of the sexes format. When
Katie Gengler of Mariposa, Calif., crossed the finish line first in 3 hours, 2 minutes and 46 seconds, many observers failed to recognize that Julian had set a course record when he finished in 2:35:28.
By finishing 46 seconds after Gengler, Julian felt like his performance was being misrepresented. He received a $500 check for winning the men’s division, but felt like he should have been the runner everyone should have been shaking hands with.
“I don’t think there should be any confusion who is running faster,” Julian said. “I never saw her. As it turned out, she was a minute ahead of me. Had I known, there is always that competitiveness within you that you can dig up when you can see them and it’s a more tangible thing as opposed to having no idea.”
Gengler received $1,000 for crossing the finish line first, even though she posted the seventh-fastest time overall.
“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,” Gengler said.
A new high school teaching position has reduced Gengler’s training, so she hopes to make her marathon experience Sunday fun again.
“When I first ran it (in 1999) I smiled a lot. Last year, I had a girl right behind me the whole race and it hurt. I want to enjoy it again since I’m not in top condition,” Gengler said. “I have a feeling I won’t be winning it this year. Tim seems like a pretty focused guy. I’m pretty sure he’ll be taking home the $1,000 check this year.”
That being said, Gengler, however, didn’t rule out her competitive side making things interesting.
“That’s what I hate about myself,” she said.
Julian says he won’t change his strategy after last year’s disappointment.
“That’s all you can really do because of the nature of the race,” he said. “It’s not really indicative of the reality of today’s marathon racers. A women in the Chicago Marathon just ran a 2:18, Olympic qualifying for men is 2:20 and women aren’t that far behind. They’re not a half-hour behind by any means.
“But I know that going into the race. If I had that much disagreement about the race, I just wouldn’t run it.”
Julian, whose brother Peter has competed in the world track and field championships and been a member of the U.S. world cross country team three times, has prepared for his second Lake Tahoe Marathon with a racing log that suggests he won’t be satisfied with second place. Three weeks ago he placed second (1:07) in the Seattle half marathon, which served as the Pacific Northwest Championships. A week earlier, his 12-member team placed fifth in the Hood to Coast Relay, where he ran three seven-mile legs.
“Basically, I feel like I’m in as good of shape, maybe better shape than I was last year. But marathons are kind of hit or miss sometimes,” Julian said.
Also working in Julian’s favor is that women will receive a 27-minute head-start instead of the 28-minute getaway they received a year ago. The women will leave Tahoe City on the lake’s North Shore at 9:03 a.m., while the men will depart at 9:30 a.m.
The rematch buildup delights race director Les Wright since that was what he was hoping for when he came up with the novel idea for giving men and women an equal chance of winning.
“He’s coming back to get her. But somebody else might jump in there that we don’t know about. Tim didn’t know about the race until the last second last year,” Wright said.
But Julian insists that Gengler’s narrow victory is only one of several reasons as to why he’s coming back.
“It’s not all about winning. It’s a beautiful marathon and I’m going down there with some friends,” he said.
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