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Posted: October 26, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

(RWire) Athletics: Mentzer, Gurmu Win 34th Marine Corps Marathon

Boyd, Magee take MCM10K; nearly 21,000 finish "The People's Marathon"

By Steve Nearman, Running USA wire

ARLINGTON, Va. - (October 25, 2009) - Both John Mentzer and Muliye Gurmu earned the honor of taking home the Middendorf Trophy on Sunday at the 34th running of the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington.

However, they captured the nation's fifth-largest marathon in majorly different fashions.

Mentzer, a lieutenant commander at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery where Maine meets New Hampshire, took control of his race by 12 miles and played tourist over the rest of the scenic course with a 2 hour, 21 minute, 47 second run through the nation's capital.

"I'm hurting," Mentzer said moments after crossing the finish into the arms of his wife Amanda. "I'm excited to win. I did [Marine Corps] in 2005, got fourth. I've done a few more marathons since. It's a fun race but the last 10K was tough. This was the toughest last 10K I've ever had in a marathon. I probably pushed it too hard at the beginning."

For Gurmu, an Ethiopian training in nearby Silver Spring, MD, all she needed to do was push hard at the very end. Drafting off runner-up and Air Force Captain Jaymee Marty from miles 22 to 26, Gurmu flew past Marty with less than 365 yards remaining and notched a 27-second triumph in 2:49:48.

"It was easy," Gurmu said through an interpreter. "I felt good. Near the end, I was confident that I was going to win."

The day began with 20,999 starters being treated to arguably the best weather conditions for marathoning. The temperatures stayed in the 50s for much of the day, a huge plus for the back half of the field. And the air was calm, save for one spot near between 22 and 23 miles in Crystal City where the winds were whipping.

Mentzer took advantage and hung back in the hills of Arlington early in the race. After crossing the Key Bridge into Georgetown and travelling along the Potomac River through West and East Potomac parks, he finally caught up to Sean Birren, a 36-year-old from St. Louis, by the 15K timing mat. The pack was falling far back.

Just five kilometers later, Mentzer was on his way, up 29 seconds and not at all worried about Birren.

"I caught up with [Birren] between seven and eight miles," said Mentzer, who originally is from Bozeman, MT. "He said he was only going 13 to 16 miles. I knocked out some 5:12 to 5:15 miles and got the lead."

This was no novice going for victory at midrace, which he hit in 1:10:27 with a 90 second gap. After the 33-year-old posted a 2:24 here in 2005, he significantly lowered his time to 2:19:33 in Chicago in 2006, qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials. There, in November 2007 in New York City's Central Park, he nailed a 2:18:23 (good for 24th).

Mentzer, a 1998 Naval Academy grad, circled the National Mall with its stunning fall foliage and increased his lead over Salvador Miranda from Mexico to more than two minutes by 30K. He had a chance to see the length of his lead during an out-and-back leg to mile 23 in Crystal City. The rest of his course tour was uneventful.

But Miranda couldn't hold on to second. He was passed with half a mile to go by Air Force Captain Jake Johnson, whose time of 2:25:02 was a personal best by nearly two minutes. Miranda, a sergeant first class in the Mexican military and 2000 Olympic steeplechaser, had his best Marine time in five tries, a 2:25:24.

Some 25 minutes later, Gurmu and Marty were set to stage a battle to the finish. Gurmu used Melinda Keesee to tow her through nearly the entire race, passing the half-marathon in 1:20:37. Marty was more than three minutes back.

Even at 30K, Marty trailed Gurmu and Keesee by 2½ minutes but in the next 5K over the last portion of the 14th Street Bridge, she closed to within 17 seconds of the leaders.

"At mile 22, I passed [Keesee] and [Gurmu] and at mile 26, [Gurmu] outkicked me," said Marty, who is stationed in Sacramento and who placed seventh here last year in 2:57. "I ran a marathon three weeks ago."

She said she ran Twin Cities for an Olympic Trials qualifier and just missed by 29 seconds in 2:46:29. Then she said she had to run Marine Corps just three weeks later to qualify for the International Military Marathon in Athens, Greece, next October. She was the third military finisher at that competition this past April in Serbia.

In the end, the 25-year-old Gurmu had the fresher legs and more natural speed and youth up the last painful hill by the Iwo Jima Memorial finish, prevailing over the 42-year-old Marty, whose 2:50:15 broke the Masters event record of 2:50:51 set by Diane Palmason of Ottawa, Canada in 1983.

The Royal Navy / Marines won the annual Challenge Cup competition and Air Force team won the Armed Forces Marathon competition.

Wyatt Boyd of Washington and Kim Magee of Bloomington, MN, won the accompanying MCM10K in 32:54 and 39:20, respectively. Nearly 5,400 finished the 6.2 mile race.

34th Marine Corps Marathon
Washington, DC, Sunday, October 25, 2009

1) John Mentzer (ME), 2:21:47
2) Jacob Johnson (AR), 2:25:02
3) Salvador Miranda (MEX), 2:25:24
4) Benjamin Payne (MS), 2:26:30
5) Corey Duguette (WA), 2:27:34

MASTERS Men (40+)
1) Mark Croasdale, 44, GBR, 2:39:08
2) Mark Cucuzzella, 43, WV, 2:40:55
3) Alex Heithenington, 42, CA, 2:41:49

1) Muliye Gurmu (ETH), 2:49:48
2) Jaymee Marty, 42, CA, 2:50:15
3) Kayla Barbour (GA), 2:50:47
4) Emily Potter (VA), 2:51:53
5) Martha Nelson (DC), 2:57:20

MASTERS Women (40+)
1) Marty, see above
2) Grace Behrens, 42, NY, 2:58:28
3) Suzanne Himes, 40, DC, 3:00:59

Complete results at:

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