No Time to Stop and Smell the Blossoms

Michael Wardian, 33, crosses the National Marathon finish line in record time, and in doing so beats a runner, Ethiopia's Samuel Gebremichael, who defeated him last week in Virginia Beach.
Michael Wardian, 33, crosses the National Marathon finish line in record time, and in doing so beats a runner, Ethiopia's Samuel Gebremichael, who defeated him last week in Virginia Beach. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Jim Hage
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 30, 2008

Michael Wardian won the third National Marathon for the third time at RFK Stadium yesterday, in yet another record time.

Then he left to catch a flight to Knoxville, Tenn., where he's running another marathon today.

If savoring the spoils of victory is not Wardian's strong suit, neither was dilly-dallying along the course, which traced two large loops through all eight city wards. Wardian, 33, left eventual runner-up Samuel Gebremichael, from Ethiopia, in the early miles and finished in 2 hours 24 minutes 57 seconds, bettering last year's winning time of 2:26:35.

Moreover, Wardian, from Arlington, turned the tables on Gebremichael, who beat him by more than two minutes at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach last Sunday.

"I went out hard and kept going," Wardian said. "I didn't want to give him any opportunity to stay with me."

Gebremichael, 27, ran 2:28:51, and Brendon Moody, 26, from Van Wert, Ohio, took third in 2:29:39.

Myriam Grenon, 39, from Longueuil, Quebec, a mother of four, was a mild surprise as the winner of the women's marathon in 2:54:51. With her husband, Serge St.-Antoine, interpreting, Grenon said she did not realize she was leading until the 22nd mile.

"I never thought about winning" until that point, Grenon said. "But it was a good feeling and I accelerated to the finish." Grenon and her husband, who finished about five minutes ahead, were en route to Richmond, where their oldest daughter was playing in a soccer tournament.

Denise Knickman, 39, of Baltimore took second in 3:01:34, and Nicole Hugie, 23, of Seattle, was third in 3:08:46.

Many of the top American women were preparing for the Olympic trials marathon in Boston on April 20, and six of them used the accompanying half-marathon as a tuneup. Samia Akbar, 26, from Herndon, employed her fluid style to best a deep field in 1:16:28. Akbar ran 2:34:14 in the 2006 New York City Marathon and competed on the national team at the World Championships last summer in Osaka, Japan. She finished 13th overall yesterday and said she is ready for Boston.

"At this point, all the work is done," Akbar said. "I haven't raced a lot, but my training is going okay and I'm healthy, that's the most important thing.

"Today, I felt good, even took a little chance," forcing the pace through the early going, she said. Akbar and Teyba Naser traded the lead through the first five miles, before Akbar pulled away. Naser, 21, from Ethiopia, finished second, 29 seconds back.

Abby Dean, from Philadelphia; Briana Whaley, from Culpeper; inaugural National Marathon winner Susan Graham-Grey, from Greencastle, Pa.; Emily Levan, from Wiscasset, Maine; and Phebe Ko, from Baltimore, all marathon trials qualifiers, finished third through seventh, respectively.

Also in the half-marathon, Ezkyas Sisay, from Ethiopia, ran 1:06:15 and outkicked defending champion Christopher Raabe, from Washington, to win by six seconds. Like women's runner-up Naser, Sisay, 19, won the St. Patrick's Day 8K in Washington two weeks ago.

Will Christian, 24, a University of Virginia graduate and Naval officer stationed in Norfolk, was third in 1:06:51.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty took advantage of the cool temperatures and ran the marathon in 3:40:25, bettering his 2007 time of 4:08:03. "That's a new record for a mayor of the District of Columbia," he quipped. "And my best time since high school."

In all, 4,090 started the two races, 1,354 in the marathon and 2,636 in the half.

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