The air temperature may have been chilly at the start of the race, but the newest winner of the Thunder Bay Marathon burned up the course.
Evans Maiko Momanyi dethroned two-time defending champion Gilbert Kiptoo and captured the fourth annual Thunder Bay Marathon: Miles with the Giant in a time of 2:27 on Sunday.
Momanyi was competing in his second event in Thunder Bay, after placing as the runner-up in last year’s half-marathon. The temperature caught the Hamilton-based Kenyan off guard, as the race began in temperatures that dipped below the freezing point.
“The race was nice but it was so cold,” he said. “My hands were so cold.”
Kiptoo, the four-time winner of the Firefighters’ Ten Mile Road Race held in the spring, finished in the runner-up spot in a time of 2:34.
Local runner Nikki Wilberforce was the winner of the women's race for the third time in four years, as the Rosslyn resident crossed the line in 3:05.
After the opening gun to start the race, Kiptoo assumed the lead and began the 26.2-mile (42.1 kilometres) run at what Momanyi described as a fast pace.
Momanyi was determined to hold on to Kiptoo, and began to make his move around the halfway point.
“We were starting at a high-pace and I followed him, followed him, and followed him up until 15 kilometres and then I started pushing ahead. After at least 29 kilometres I pushed up to the finish.”
The finishing time for Momanyi is the fastest since the marathon adopted the full marathon route prior to last year’s race. The first two installments of the race featured two 13.1 mile loops.
This year’s race ran a lot more smoothly than last, as the 2012 event was marred by Kiptoo having to overcome a deficit after being led astray and a half-marathon runner took a wrong turn and inadvertently took a short cut and crossed the finish line first, but admitted the mistake.
This time there was no hitch for the leaders of the event, as Momanyi praised the course and the work done by volunteers and organizers to keep the route clear and well-marked.
“This round the course was very nice,” he said. “There were lots of people who were showing us the way to go and they were very organized.”
Barry Streib, president and chair of the event, said the committee kept the course the exact same as last year, and added that the vast majority of people responded favourably.
“Our runners seem to be very happy with the full marathon course, and it is certified as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon and other marathons,” Streib said. “We are going to expand on that, and ensure that the course is suitable for the runners and we love to have feedback so we have ways to improve if we have to.”
Wilberforce added another title to her impressive resume, and was boosted by positive hometown support throughout her run.
“It was just really nice to be out there and have all of those people cheering you on again,” she said. “It’s nice to be known in the city. There were lots of people that knew my name out there and it was really helpful.”
Thunder Bay's Mark Maronese was the top local male in the marathon, as he placed third for the second straight year. Last year he narrowly missed out on the top local distinction to Jonas Holmberg, and said that was a prime reason why he chose to try again this year.
He added that he had back issues as recently as Friday, and was not sure if he was even going to be able to compete.
“My back was pretty sore and tight prior to starting, so I just tried to stay within myself and hope for the best. I toughed it out,” Maronese said.
“Honestly, it was to be a shot at coming top-three. I saw that we always had two Kenyans taking the top spot, and there was a local fellow coming third, and I thought I would try to be top local in the marathon.”
Josephat Ongari of Hamilton was the top half-marathon finisher as he completed the course in a time of 1:07. Thunder Bay’s Lisa Alaimo won the women’s half-marathon, finishing sixth overall in 1:23.
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