Augustus Maiyo’s legs were dragging by the time he reached the Pentagon on Sunday, which marked the second to last mile of the Marine Corps Marathon. Maiyo’s head was bobbing from massive fatigue, and it was wet after he dumped an entire bottle of water over himself a few minutes earlier. After checking his rubber watch a few times on the last stretch, he knew he didn’t have a chance at the course record. But he was still all alone.
Maiyo was dominant down the stretch in his first-ever marathon, clocking in at 2 hours 20 minutes 20 seconds to win the 37th annual Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday morning, beating a festive field of nearly 30,000 runners who braved a chilling cold front in Washington.
Maiyo, who starred on the cross-country and track teams at the University of Alabama between 2005 and 2008, was the leader for much of the race. A specialist in the U.S. Army, he was one of many talented runners representing the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program based out of Colorado Springs in Sunday’s race.
A number of those runners threatened to take control on the back end of the marathon, including second-place finisher Kenneth Foster, but Maiyo seized control when it mattered most. He took the lead near the halfway point at Hains Point, and broke away from the lead group 18 miles in, in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol. He wasn’t challenged for the final six miles of the race.
The final 10 miles were accompanied by steady gusts of wind. That was the deciding factor in Maiyo’s failed quest to shatter the course record, which was set at 2:14:01 by Hagerstown native Jeff Scuffins in 1987.
“I wanted to run a faster time, but I mean, there was a lot of wind on the way. It was something I couldn’t control,” said the 29-year-old Maiyo. “When I hit 18 miles, I knew I wasn’t even going to run 2:15.”
All 50 states were represented in the race, along with runners from more than 50 countries. Ethiopia’s Hirut Guangul was the first woman to cross the finish line with a time of 2:42:03. The 20-year-old was running in just her sixth marathon, and after the race she headed straight for a tent to have her lower left leg examined for tightness. But just as the wind couldn’t hold Maiyo back, Guangul found a way to run through the pain in her leg in order to taste her first Marine Corps Marathon victory.
“I am very happy,” said Guangul, through an interpreter. “I wanted to run faster, but I couldn’t because of my leg.”
BethAnn Telford of Fairfax, who has been battling brain cancer for eight years, finished the race in 4:16:27.
The turnout on Sunday morning set a record, and about 20,000 people were expected to cross the finish line by race’s end. Championed as “The People’s Marathon,” the race also featured runners from every branch of the military — an internal competition that drove several runners like Foster. He is a captain in the U.S. Army, and traveling to the Marine Corps Marathon this week was an opportunity for him to not only showcase the amount of training he’s devoted to running, but also to represent the U.S. Army on a day that celebrated American service men and women.
“This is a military event. You have all four branches here,” said Foster. “We have some really good athletes here . . . a lot of dedicated athletes who run a lot, when they’re not working at their jobs.”