First-Time Marathoner Tops Marine Corps Marathon's Women's Field

First-time marathoners win the men's and women's divisions of the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday as Andrew Dumm of Washington wins the men's race and and Cate Fenster of Wooster, Ohio, is victorious in the women's portion.
By Matt McFarland
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, October 27, 2008

Two hundred yards from the finish of the Marine Corps Marathon, tears streamed down Cate Fenster's face.

She led the women's race, yet her knees, one of them surgically repaired and taped to prevent swelling, felt "like bricks."

The sensation started around Mile 20. At Mile 24 she gestured for her husband, who was following her on his bike, to stop cheering.

The 37-year-old from Wooster, Ohio, had never run more than 22 miles until yesterday but gutted out a victory in the women's race, finishing in 2 hours 48 minutes 55 seconds.

"I thought I was going to have to crawl on my hands" to the finish, Fenster said. Her husband Steve, watching silently, thought she'd lose her lead.

A man running alongside the neurobiology and physiology professor noticed Fenster struggling.

"If you run faster there will be so much glory," Fenster recalled him saying.

Fenster whimpered back, "I can't."

Only three weeks ago she e-mailed the marathon's race director, "I think I can run under three hours, is there any way I can run in the race?" Fenster recalled. She got back good news, and was issued a bib. A bib with five digits, No. 28435, not the kind of number given to someone expected to win.

But Fenster thought she had a chance. With no prize money for winners, she knew she probably wouldn't have to face an Olympian. Fenster had run cross-country and track at Furman University and recently ran some half-marathons. So for the three weeks before yesterday's 26.2-mile gut check, she upped her mileage, running about 80 miles a week.

Fenster trailed early, then took the lead at Mile 16. But Arlington's Lindsay Wilkins, 30, steadily chipped almost a minute off Fenster's lead in the final miles.

And as tears streamed down Fenster's face, a charging Wilkins turned into the race's final ascent.

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