COLUMBUS, OHIO, NOV. 11 -- Steve Spence, who entered the Columbus Marathon with the goal of finishing without walking, ran a career-best time of 2 hours 12 minutes 16 seconds to win it today.

He led a group of 28 men in The Athletics Congress national championship race who finished under 2:20 and qualified for the 1992 U.S. Olympic marathon trials to be held on the same course.

"It was a surprise to me," he said after finishing 21 seconds ahead of Mark Curp and 51 seconds ahead of Don Janicki.

"People asked me what my goal was before the race, and I said to finish without walking," Spence, of Chambersburg, Pa., said after beating his previous personal best of 2:17:49 in the 1988 Olympic trials.

He trailed Curp, of Lee's Summit, Mo., by about 30 seconds at the 24-mile mark before moving to overtake him in the stretch despite chilly westerly winds.

"I didn't notice that wind until the last three miles," Spence said of his charge to the finish on the flat, fast course.

Curp said he felt tired in the stretch and was unable to hold off Spence's charge.

"I only wish I could have come in 22 seconds faster than I did," he said. "I felt my best around 17 or 18 miles, but lost it in the last mile and a half."

Spence earned the top prize of $25,000 plus a $20,000 training stipend. The victory also could help him make the U.S. team for the 1991 World Championships at Tokyo.

Curp and Janicki's second- and third-place finishes, respectively, made them eligible for the 1991 Pan American Games at Havana. Each received $16,000 in winnings.

Lisa Kindelan of Beaverton, Ore., was the top women's finisher in 2:35:44.

Kindelan, who placed fourth in the 1990 Goodwill Games and was the first American finisher, took the lead after eight miles and held it the rest of the way. Jennifer Martin of Erie, Pa., finished second in 2:37:15 and Ursula Noctor of Ireland was third at 2:39:25.

"The wind was pretty bad," Kindelan said. "I came in hoping to {set a personal record}, and I would have . . . without the wind being so strong."

Her personal best is 2:35:31, set in the 1989 California International marathon. RESULTS MEN

1, Steve Spence, Chambersburg, Pa., 2 hours 12 minutes 16.1 seconds; 2, Mark Curp, Lee's Summit, Mo., 2:12:37.7; 3, Don Janicki, Louisville, Colo., 2:13:07; 4, Steve Taylor, Fincastle, Va., 2:13:56.9; 5, William Reifsnyder, Albuquerque, 2:14:48.3; 6, Budd Coates, Emmaus, Pa., 2:14:58; 7, Robert Pierce, Bellevue, Wa, 2:15:19.6; 8, Gary Gargasz, Volant, Pa., 2:15:24.8; 9, Craig Young, Rockford, Ill., 2:15:58.9; 10, Ronald Johnson, Sandusky, Mich., 2:16:22.5.

11, Daniel Grimes, Santa Rosa, Calif., 2:16:33.3; 12, Rich McCandless, Hayward, Calif., 2:16:38.3; 13, Jerry Marsh, Santa Monica, Calif,. 2:16:53.8; 14, Jim Hage, Lanham, Md., 2:17:20.1; 15, John Glidewell, Woodbridge, Va., 2:17:26; 16, Don Johns, Monroe, Mich., 2:18:06.2; 17, Chad Bennion, Eugene, Ore., 2:18:08; 18, Filomeno Apodaca, Las Cruces, N.M., 2:18:30.8; 19, Dick LeDoux, Pueblo, Colo., 2:18:47.9; 20, Walter Gargent, Colorado Springs, Colo., 2:18:54.5. WOMEN

1, Lisa Kindelan, Kirkland, Wash., 2:35:44.5; 2, Jennifer Martin, Erie, Pa., 2:37:16; 3, Ursula Noctor, Irerland, 2:39:25.8; 4, Kirsi Rauta, Lynchburg, Va., 2:39:57.8; 5, Laura Konantz, Canada, 2:40:27.2; 6, Debbie Wagner, Perrysburg, Ohio, 2:42:06.5; 7, Judy Chamberlain, Golden, Colo., 2:43:26.3; 8, Debbi Kilpatrick, Strongsville, Ohio, 2:45:17.8; 9, Brenda Wood, Austin, Tex., 2:46:58.3; 10, Cynthia Woods, Bolingbrook, Ill., 2:49:47.8.