By Steve Nearman
October 15, 2011
For the Washington Running Report
Stephen Muange had no idea what to expect in his very first marathon experience today at the 11th edition of the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon.
So under sunny clear skies and favorable temperatures, the Kenyan distance runner laid back for nearly 26 miles before unleashing his potent finishing kick.
“Today I was scared and I didn’t want to push the pace,” said Muange, a 30-year-old who trains in Las Cruces, NM, after posting a 2:15:16. “It was my first marathon and I didn’t have any experience. Next time I will go out faster.”
His four-second victory in the last 300 meters earned Muange his largest career paycheck – $25,000. But that did not match the $27,500 his counterpart in the women’s race – Olena Shurkhno – took back to her homeland of Ukraine for not just outrunning all the females and defending her 2010 title but also for setting a new event record, good for another $2,500.
Like last year, Shurkhno put some real estate on her closest pursuers before she reached Clifton Park at Mile 19 and ran solo to the finish between Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium. In the process, she covered the course in 2:29:11, shattering Luliia Arkhipova’s 2009 mark of 2:32:09.
“I knew the record, I was trying for the record,” Shurkhno, a 34-year-old Ukranian who splits her time between her training camp in Russia and home in the Ukraine, said through her agent Andrey Baranov. “The biggest challenge was running against the wind alone. I ran 2:28 at San Diego this year.”
Conversely, Muange said he was not much affected by the gusting winds because he was tucked in a large pack of Kenyans and Ethiopians for much of the race. Many others of the 3,443 marathon starters found the winds to be bothersome. Two spots were particularly bad, going into Fells Point between 13 and 14 and around Lake Montebello between Miles 19 and 21.
It did not help local favorite Dave Berdan of Owings Mills, MD (left) in his quest for a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, nor did the hilly course. Berdan was forced to run solo at the front of the race for the first 55 minutes and 49 seconds when the huge lead pack was not interested in running his pace.
“Nobody wanted to go with me,” said the 30-year-old school teacher. “They were going for the money. I was going for the time.”
The time was the Olympic qualifier “A” mark of 2:19 and Berdan was gutsy and went for it. By five miles through the Maryland Zoo and past Lake Druid, Berdan had more than a minute lead on 18 elite runners out of sight behind him.
Passing Pennsylvania Station and Mile 8 as the shade of downtown fell upon the runners, the pack quickly reeled in Berdan. Shortly before the 11-mile mark, where the course turns around at the Under Armour headquarters, Berdan was consumed by a tight group of 16.
“I knew I was going to be passed by these guys at some point,” he said. Berdan cruised by the half-marathon point on the flat roads of Inner Harbor in 1:08:30, well ahead of qualifying pace. But he knew the back 13 of the Baltimore course is more difficult than the first. He worked hard to stay with the Africans.
Eventually, attrition started to trim down the pack. Berdan was one of the first to go. “At about 17 miles, starting to go up hill at Patterson Park, I ran 5:30 and the pace was dropping to 5 minutes,” said Berdan, who would end up the 10th man crossing the line in 2:21:19, a big improvement on his 2:23:45 previous best.
He offered that the effort on a faster course like Chicago might have yielded a sub-2:19 but with family and job that trip was not feasible. Though disappointed, he said he might attempt a qualifier at the Philadelphia Marathon or half marathon next month.
Nine men were still in contention around Lake Montebello and past 21 miles. Three more dropped off in the next two miles and shortly after, as the course turned down Howard Street and straight for home, the pace quickened and the pack split in half.
In the first trio, Ethiopians Tesfaye Assefaudube and Ambesse Tolosa tried to shed Muange at 24 miles as they passed the National Guard Armory. But Muange had total faith in his kick. He had used his closing speed brilliantly in January at the 3-M Half Marathon in Austin as he outran another Ethiopian, Girma Tolla, who scratched from today’s race.
A prolific road race, Muange was a frequent flier on the U.S. roads this year, running the elite races Credit Union Cherry Blossom in Washington (7th) and Crescent City in New Orleans (7th) in April, Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, MN (4th) in June, Peachtree 10K in Atlanta (11th), Boilermaker 15K in Utica, N.Y. (4th), Crazy Eights 8K in Kingsport, TN (3rd), and Wharf to Wharf 10K in Santa Cruz, CA (5th) in July.
“I knew I had the speed,” Muange said. “Last year, I ran 27:14 for 10,000 meters and I ran an 8K in 22 minutes in August. I’m good in speed. I was not worried at the end.”
As the three reached the ally adjacent to Camden Yards, about 100 meters to the 26-mile marker, Muange turned it on and quickly put distance on Tolosa and Assefaudube, who hit the finish just four and six seconds, respectively, behind him. Tolosa earned $14,000 and Assefaudube banked $8,000.
“My left foot hurt me a little after 30 kilometers,” said Tolosa, who twice has run 2:08, in 2004 and 2006.
Pre-race favorite and 2008 victor and course-record holder Julius Keter was 11th in 2:21:53.
Behind them, the women had been keying off defending champion Shurkhno. A group of 10 at five miles dwindled down to six by 10 miles and five by the half marathon passed in 1:15:22.
“I started to pick up the pace after the half marathon,” Shurkhno said. “It was a little bit slow between miles 13 and 14. I didn’t remember the course from last year. But I started to remember it at Miles 20 and 21 around the lake and at the finish. I love the lake but it’s windy.”
Shurkhno (left) slowly pulled from her competition and entered the loop around Lake Montebello with a solid 30-second lead.
Behind her was Russian Ludmila Biktasheva, working her way back into serious competition after the birth of daughter Yana two years ago next week. In her third marathon, she said she found the second half of the course “challenging, but overall I’m satisfied with second place.” Her 2:29:57 also surpassed the event record and was a three-minute personal best.
“From 16 to 20 miles, the third place woman and I were running together but after 20 miles, I was running alone in second place,” said the 37-year-old Biktasheva, who scored $14,000. “I was keeping the pace but she was slowing down.”
Hellen Kimatai of Kenya was third in 2:31:10, good for $8,000.
Masters competitions in the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon were won by Alexey Khokhlov, a 40-year-old Russian living in Gaithersburg, MD in 2:28:57 and local favorite 43-year-old Denise Knickman of Baltimore in 3:09:47. Each earned $1,000 for their triumphs.
In addition to the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon, the Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival – its largest field ever with 25,000 entrants – attracted another 9235 starters in the half marathon and 2,959 starters in the 5K.
In the accompanying CareFirst Half Marathon Habib Ettarfaoui of Pikesville, MD and Katrin Kreil of Hannover, Germany nailed victories in 1:11:59 and 1:24:07, respectively. In the 5K, Tristram Thomas of Baltimore and Cara Wettlaufer of Nottingham, MD were top finishers in 15:34 and 1:19:14, respectively.
“It was a beautiful day, a little windy, but we had a great competition in the men’s race being so close and a record for the women,” Lee Corrigan, President of Corrigan Sports Enterprises and Race Director of the Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival, said. “All in all, a great day for Baltimore.”
By Jim Carbary
Last year Dave Berdan won the Annual 10 Mile Challenge in an amazingly fast time of 51:43. At this year’s race, Ryan McGrath, captain of the Falls Road Running team offered a bonus of $100 to his teammate Alexander Battaglino if he could better that time. Having every intention of collecting, Battaglino bolted from the start and immediately assumed a commanding lead.
“He went out so fast that we thought he’d fade and we’d reel him in,” said Carlos Renjifo, captain of the Howard County Strider/Feet First racing team.
Battaglino (left in photo by Doug Hawkland) kept a relentless pace, however, and slowed down only slightly in the hilly section of the course around six miles. “I never looked back,” he said, “so I really didn’t know how far ahead I was.” He finished nearly two minutes ahead of Matt Barresi in second place. Battaglino clocked 51:34 – nine seconds ahead of Berdan’s time— so he earned his bonus.
Falls Road may have claimed the top finisher, but they placed only six in the top 20 finishers, while the home team from Howard County placed seven in the top 20. This was enough for the locals to win the men’s team trophy. The top 12 men scored, with the next 80 serving as “displacers.”
Howard County’s Kara Waters (below in photo by Jim Carbary) won the woman’s race in 1:01:55 by a margin similar to that of Battaglino. She ran the race as an independent last year, but signed on with the Striders this year and ran several minutes faster, mostly competing against the men. “There were some good hills,” Kara said about the course. Her time and margin of victory were all the more amazing since she had just finished the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon (Arizona) a month ago in 2:52:31. She plans to improve her time by doing some speed work in the near future.
Kara’s valiant effort was not enough for the Strider women to beat back the women’s team from Falls Road. Led by Denise Knickman, the Falls Road women collected the next five places behind Waters and swept to a resounding victory in the women’s team challenge. “It was the best race I’ve had in a while,” Knickman said. The top six women on a team scored.
The mixed or coed team victory was decided by a scoring system as complicated as the NFL’s tie-breaker rules. Fortunately, the scoring was handled by a computer, which eventually determined that the men and women of Falls Road had also won the mixed team championship. By dint of its two team victories, Falls Road also took the overall championship. They retained the ancient trophy, which dates to 1980. Battaglino and Waters also took home trophies for their individual victories. The men, women’s, and mixed teams received trophies. But there were no more awards, since this was purely a team challenge race. All finishers did receive the trademark painter’s gloves.
The race was directed by Richard Bernstein, who received support from dozens of Howard County Strider volunteers and the Boy Scouts. The Howard County police not only provided traffic control, they also gave Battaglino a motorcycle escort all through his 10-mile jaunt. The Striders also wish to thank Steve Musselman and the Howard Community college, which served as the venue for the race and allowed use of its gymnasium for post-race ceremonies.
Ten complete teams from all over central Maryland and the District of Columbia competed in the 10 Mile Challenge, which is an official RRCA Championship race. The Challenge race also represents the first race in the Maryland RRCA Grand Prix Championship series. Although 800 signed up for the race, only 564 finished. The registration of the 800 individuals marked the largest field ever for the 10 Mile Challenge and the first time the event ever closed out.
Men’s Teams (low score wins)
This event was the first race of the 2011 Maryland Grand Prix Championship Series
Below is this year’s schedule.
Maryland State RRCA Championship Series Schedule
1. MD RRCA Challenge (the 1st race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) was run Sunday 2/27/11- 8:00 a.m.
2. Springburst 8K (2nd race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Saturday 4/9/11 – 9:00 a.m.
3. Bel Air Town Run 5K (3th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Sunday 6/05/11 – 8:00 a.m.
4. Fatburger 5 Miler (4th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Sunday 6/19/11 – 8:00 a.m.
5. Dog Day’s 8K (5th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Sunday 8/7/11 – 8:00 a.m.
6. Frederick Mile (6th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Saturday 9/10/11 – 8:00 a.m.
7. Dave Herlocker Memorial Bachmann Valley Half Marathon (7th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Sunday 9/25/11 – 8:00 a.m.
8. Falls Road 15K (8th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Sunday 10/02/12 – 8:30 a.m.
9. Rockville 10K (9th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Sunday 11/06/11 – 8:30 a.m.
10. Northern Central Trail Marathon (10th race of the Maryland RRCA State Championship Series) will be run Saturday 11/26/16 – 9:30 a.m.