Ayalew Captures Marine Corps Marathon

By Jim Hage
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 29, 2007

Twenty-one miles into the 32nd Marine Corps Marathon, Ruben Garcia appeared in good position to win his third straight title. But from the start, Garcia hadn't been able to shake Tamrat Ayalew, and he realized before anyone else that his title run was about to end.

"I was waiting, waiting, waiting for him to move past me," Garcia said through an interpreter. "I trained hard and expected to win. But I had cramps in my legs and couldn't go." Ayalew moved ahead, pulled away and won in 2 hours 22 minutes 20 seconds.

Garcia, 36, finished second, exactly two minutes behind in 2:24:20.

"My whole reason for running was to try to be the first person to win three times," said Garcia, a corporal in the Mexican navy. "I'm sad and frustrated."

Ayalew, 33, born in Ethiopia and seeking political asylum in the United States, has lived in Atlanta for the past year and a half and finished eighth in last year's Marine Corps Marathon. He increased his lead with every stride over the final miles. "I had good power," Ayalew said.

"I had confidence from the start and knew I could win," he added through an interpreter.

Ayalew overcame a bout of stomach distress at Mile 15. He vomited shortly after ingesting a chocolate energy gel and sports drink. "After that, I'm good, and it's time to push," he said through fellow Ethiopian and Foot Solutions teammate, Birhann Wukaw, who was running with the leaders at 20 miles but suffered knee pain and finished well back in 2:38:24.

Georgetown University graduate Kristen Henehan, 28, running her first marathon, took the lead from Lisa Thomas, 31, with half a mile to go and won the women's race in 2:51:14. Thomas, who took the lead at 23 miles, finished second, 26 seconds back.

"I said to myself, 'I have something left, I'm going to go for it,' " Henehan said.

Prerace favorite Claudia Colita, 28, a Romanian runner training in Portland, Ore., and another member of the Foot Solutions team, started slowly, moved up throughout the race and finished third in 2:54:19.

Jaron Hawkins, 24, from Frostburg, Md., passed Jose Miranda with half a mile to go to take third in a personal-best 2:25:34. Hawkins ran with the leaders and even led for a short time over the pack of seven at 14 miles. "I didn't know what I was doing" at that point, he said.

Hawkins settled into fourth place, but his coach, on a bicycle, saw that Miranda ahead of him was tiring, and urged Hawkins "to move up and get on the [winners'] podium," Hawkins said. "I was tired but kept on going, finally passed [Miranda] with half a mile to go. He said 'Good job' when I went by." Miranda, Garcia's teammate on the Mexican navy team, finished fourth in 2:26:03; he was third last year.

Carl Rundell, 39, from Birmingham, Mich., second to Garcia the past two years and fifth in 2004, extended his run of hard luck and finished fifth again yesterday in 2:26:28. Rundell, who has qualified for Saturday's Olympic trials marathon in New York, opted not to run there in an attempt to finally win the Marine Corps.

The revised course, which included a couple of early and difficult hills, received generally good reviews. The weather was good for running, with clear skies and cool temperatures, although the breeze became stiff at points along the Mall and along the river.

A field of 20,677 finished the race; a record 20,908 finished last year. The 10K, which started nearly half an hour late and whose stragglers overlapped with the first marathon finishers, had a record 2,677 starters.

Olga Markova, 1990 Marine Corps winner, course record holder (2:37:00) and one of this year's two marathon Hall of Fame inductees, ran the 10K before holding the tape for the women's marathon winner.

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