Kenyan wins Pittsburgh Marathon; Americans place third
May 1, 2016 9:25 AM
Runners on the Rachel Carson Bridge during the 2016 Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.
Kenya's Kipkoech Ruto crosses the finish line in 2:17.28 to win the men's division.
Ethiopia's Ayantu Dakebo crosses the finish line to win the women's Pittsburgh Marathon in 2:39.19.
Runners pack the Rachel Carson Bridge during the 2016 Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.
Brian Batko / Post-Gazette
Kipkoech Ruto of Kenya wins the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon among men.
By Brian Batko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If there’s one thing Kipkoech Ruto knew Sunday morning after winning the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon, it was that he wants to come back next year.
Ruto, a first-time Pittsburgh runner from Kenya, took the perfect route for much of the 26.2 miles through the city to capture the gold medal for the men’s marathon with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 26 seconds.
“I’m feeling very good that I won,” he said on the medal stand after receiving his $8,000 prize.
With rain falling for the first half of the race, Ruto, 27, built a sizable lead before Werkuneh Seyoum Aboye of Ethiopia finally got within striking distance. Aboye, 31, even caught up to Ruto and took the lead between the 20th- and 21st-mile markers, but Ruto had conserved enough energy to kick down the stretch and pull away for a victory by more than a minute.
“I decided to relax,” Ruto said with a smile. “I was thinking about the finishing line.”
He glanced over his shoulder several times as Aboye made his move to catch up and give rowdy onlookers from Bloomfield to the Strip District a two-man race to watch.
“The Kenyan was very fast, and this course is up, down, up, down,” said Aboye, who moved one rung up the ladder after placing third last year. “I just pushed.”
Tyler Jermann, 23, a distance runner in college at Iowa State University, was the top American finisher and took third overall. This was Jermann’s fourth marathon, but the other three — in Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles — were “pancake-flat” compared to Pittsburgh’s hills. He took a conservative approach and wasn’t “too beat up” at the end of an enjoyable trek through town.
“It was really cool,” said Jermann, who finished in 2:20:36. “Every single part of the course, there were people with music, people cheering. It was awesome, especially with rainy conditions.”
While Aboye had to settle for silver, it became a little more special when Bizuwork Getahun Kasaye crossed the finish line second among women’s finishers. She couldn’t quite catch fellow Ethiopian Hailemaryam Ayantu Dakebo, but she and Aboye, her husband, made it a post-race family affair.
The women’s gold medal-winning time for Dakebo was 2:39:17, and not 10 minutes later across the finish line came Phebo Ko, the third-place finisher and top American woman.
“That was my goal coming in,” said Ko, 33. “You always hope, but marathons are so unpredictable that you never really know if it’s going to pan out for you that day.”
In Ko’s case, that was especially true. Originally from Salt Lake City but now a resident of San Francisco, Ko is an anesthesiologist who finished second in the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 and 2010. But back then, she was in medical school and had more time to train. These days, she has to work around being on call at the hospital, but the stars aligned for her to take Pittsburgh again.
“It was a little more challenging in that aspect … but this Pittsburgh Marathon just came at a time where I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how I do,’ ” she said. “I feel like [work] helps balance me out. It makes it less stressful, like, ‘Running’s not everything.’ ”
Sunday, though, was all about the run, and Ko — who would love to qualify for the 2020 Olympic trials — came through.
“I was really hopeful and felt pretty good during the race,” she said. “Then toward the end I was realizing it was within reach, so I was like, ‘Don’t panic, just keep going.’ You don’t really know you have it until the last mile, and then you’re like, ‘OK, I can see the finish line.’ ”
The two-time defending women’s champion, Clara Santucci, a native of Dilliner, Greene County, did not try for a three-peat because of a hamstring injury in February.
In the men’s half-marathon, Julius Kogo held off a fellow Kenyan and 2015 champion, Kimutai Cheruiyot, by 16 seconds to win in 1:03:13. Kogo won the half in 2013, but took second to Cheruiyot last year. Etaferahu Temesgen of Ethiopia won this year’s women’s half in 1:13:08, topping 2015 gold medalist Susan Jerotich of Kenya.
In the wheels category, Kenneth Bestine, 49, a member of Pittsburgh’s SteelWheelers, participated in his first full race since recovering from a broken arm and finished first at 1:25:59. It was slow-going on wheels because of the wet conditions, he said.
“It was a little bit windy, breezy and slick in places, so I ran on low air pressure on my tires to make sure I had good grip,” he said.
“About a year and a half ago I had wreck in a race and broke my arm,” he said, showing the scar near his right elbow. “So this is my first event back that I can go hard and I’ve been training pretty hard, and it’s starting to come back together. I’m 50 this year, so I’m not peaking by any means, so this was nice.”
Attila Domos of Pittsburgh and Bruce Newman of Stella, N.C., were second and third, respectively. The first female finisher in the wheels division was Ashli Molinero at 1:29.25.
Sunday’s cooler temperatures also may have had an impact on the number of people treated for various ailments.
UPMC doctors treated 260 runners along the course and in the main medical tent near the finish line. Among that group, 26 runners were transported to local hospitals.
Vincent Mosesso, who specializes in emergency medicine for UPMC, is a longtime marathon doctor and director of the main medical tent at the intersection of Boulevard of the Allies and Stanwix Street in Downtown. In addition to the main tent, there were eight stations throughout the course.
Mosesso said this year was normal to low for turnout at the tent. Doctors were seeing mostly muscle cramps and hyperthermia, and one person received a cool-down treatment. Several people complained of chest pains.
“The cool temperatures with no sun helped,” Mosesso said. “We have seen many hot days in the past and that can mean more problems.”
He added that he saw no problems related to slick surfaces along the course.
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