Gilbert Kiptoo handily won the Thunder Bay Marathon Sunday, despite taking an extra lap through a newly added loop through Chapples Park.
The Kenyan figured his miscue cost him 20 minutes, but realizing his error in time, he dropped his pace into high gear and fought back to the pack, ultimately passing second-place finisher Jonas Holmberg and cruised to his second straight triumph at the third-year event.
Kiptoo wasn’t the only racer who ran off course on the new layout. A runner in the half marathon took a wrong turn and actually crossed the line first, but quickly acknowledged his mistake and made no claim on the title, won by Winnipeg’s Dancan Kasia.
Kiptoo, who was aiming for a 2:19 finish, had to settle for a 2:38:48, two minutes and 20 seconds faster than Holmberg, who runs for Lakehead University and was the top local finisher in the men’s marathon.
Duluth’s Katie Koski took the women’s race in 2:55:08, the fourth fastest time of any participant.
“I want to apologize for getting lost,” said Kitpoo, a fixture on the local running scene, who was without his usual running partner and inaugural race winner Phillip Kipchumba, who was unable to afford the plane ticket to fly from Africa to Thunder Bay for the 2012 race.
“I know it’s not normal to get lost in a race, it was human error and I paid for that. It was not their fault.”
He said he actually had to stop to try to figure out where he was supposed to go, as Homberg and the other lead runners continued to pull away.
“I remember running and catching up to the second (place) lady and the leading lady and when I asked her who was second, she told me they were far away, so I kept pushing and pushing and pushing,” said Kitpoo, who intends to go for the three-peat in 2013.
Race organizer Barry Streib said he’s not sure what happened to Kiptoo, but nonetheless was amazed he could fall so far behind and find the power to catch the pack and win the race.
“I was very pleased that he was able to get back on track and come in first place and win the event for the second time,” Streib said.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it? I think these Kenyans are amazing runners and it just bodes well to have a person of that calibre in Thunder Bay running the marathon and doing so well, even with his little bit of a glitch that happened on the course.”
Koski, a seven-time Firefighters Ten Mile Road Race champion, said she was hoping for a better time, but felt awesome winning in a city she calls one of her favourite places to race and plans to make it a yearly event.
“I thought it was a very nice course. It was well-organized, it was very different, all the different sections so it never got boring. It was tough around mile 16, 17, 18, climbing up around Boulevard Lake, but then it was really nice to come back down the hill and come into the finish.”
Thunder Bay’s Nicki Wilberforce was the second woman to cross the Marina Park finish line, which last year was located on Red River Road.
Wilberforce finished in 3:11:26.
It wasn’t all about winning. With a variety of races happening simultaneously and 963 participants – up significantly from last year – there was a little something for everyone, including seven-year-old Callum Serediack, who ran the five-kilometre race with his father.
He was just happy to finish.
“It felt pretty good,” he said, admitting he was pretty tired. “I’ll probably go sleep on the couch.”
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