San Antonio, TX (November 15, 2009) -- 29-year-old Gilbert Koech led a five-man Kenyan sweep of the second annual Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon today, notching his first marathon victory since the 2005 Las Vegas Marathon. In testing, humid conditions, Koech broke from the five-man lead pack shortly after the 19-mile mark, and was headed on his way to victory in a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes and 39 seconds.
The race began under overcast skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, but humidity hovered at over 90 percent. Notwithstanding, American half-marathon winner Westly Keating and runner-up Shadrack Songok, both from Texas and running in their debut half-marathons, led the accompanying six marathon runners through a fast first 10 miles and reached the 10-mile mark in an aggressive time of 49:25, sub-2:10 marathon pace.
"I wasn't concerned by the early pace because I felt comfortable," said Koech, whose $17,500 first place prize equates to 1.26 million Kenyan schillings. "I'm looking forward to coming back next year to defend my title at this race."
After reaching the 10.7-mile-mark where the half-marathon and marathon courses split off from one another, the six marathon runners increasingly slowed their pace reaching the half-marathon point in 1:05:39. The pack stayed together until just after the 19 miles when Koech made his move running a 4:56 2oth mile to gain an initial six second advantage over eventual third place finisher James Boit, which surprised his better credentialed compatriots.
He remained on course record pace through 25 miles, but he began to suffer the effects of the fast early miles and rising temperatures. It was a difficult second half as Koech ran a split of 69:00 with a 5:45 final mile, falling just three seconds shy of the course record. However, none of his challengers had the firepower to close the gap that Koech had built.
"I didn't care about the time; winning was awesome. It's been a struggle living in America with little money," said Koech, whose injuries over the last two years had been misdiagnosed and eventually cost him his sponsorship contracts.
He is married to two-time Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Champion Edna Kiplagat, who was planning to run in San Antonio but was unable to due to visa difficulties.
Washington's Drew Polley was the top American, coming in eighth with a time of 2:20:59 in his debut marathon.
In the women's race, Tatiana Pushkareva of Russia won in a time of 2:30:30, over four minutes ahead of countrywoman Svetlana Ponomorenko, who finished second in 2:34:57. It was the second Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series victory of the year for Pushkareva, who also won the Country Music Marathon in April.
"After we hit the half marathon I was confident; I was running my pace," said Pushkareva, who finished fourth last year in San Antonio. "I love the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon."
Polish Olympian Dorota Gruca finished third in 2:36:07, while Russia's Albina Gallymova was fourth in 2:40:38. Kenya's Evelyn Lagat rounded out the top five finishers with a time of 2:42:28.
"I felt I ran well today," said Gruca, who represented Poland in the marathon at last year's Beijing Olympics. "I'm looking forward to running faster in my next marathon. It was a little lonely with no one really in front or behind me during the race. Finishing on the podium was my goal and I achieved it."
Becca Prichard of Charleston, SC was the top American woman, finishing in seventh place with a time of 2:52:51.
The race had nearly 26,500 starters from all 50 states and 23 countries. Temperatures were in the mid-60s at the start line, a stark contrast from the extreme cold that greeted runners in 2008, the event's inaugural year. The first hour and 50 minutes of the race were held under cloudy skies, with the sun only coming as the elite winners crossed the finish.
The third annual Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon & ½ Marathon is set for Sunday, November 14, 2010.
2009 Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon Results
- Gilbert Koech, 29, Kenya, 2:14:39, $17,500
- Laban Moiben, 26, Kenya, 2:15:21, $,8,000
- James Boit, 30, Kenya, 2:15:43, $4,000
- Joseph Mutinda, 31, Kenya, 2:16:00, $2,000
- Noah Talam, 26, Kenya, 2:17:43, $1,500
- Tatiana Pushkareva, 24, Russia, 2:30:30, $17,500
- Svetlana Ponomorenko, 40, Russia, 2:34:57, $,8,500
- Dorota Gruca, 39, Poland, 2:36:07, $4,000
- Albina Gallymova, 45, Russia, 2:40:38, $2,250
- Evelyne Lagat, 29, Kenya, 2:42:28, $1,500
Women's Winner - Photo:Victah Sailor/photorun.net)