Peter Omae was nearly finished when he started worrying.
He had only a mile remaining in the men’s marathon, one last hill to run, but his legs felt heavy and his head seemed light. His pace slowed, and he looked over his shoulder, fearful that Peter Gilmore was preparing to pass him.
“I know he’s strong,” said Omae, a Kenyan who lives in Mexico City.
By that time, Gilmore had troubles of his own.
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“I died a thousand deaths at that point,” said Gilmore, who lives in California.
Omae finished first in the men’s marathon with a time of 2 hours, 18 minutes, 17 seconds. The 26.2-mile course, however, was the real winner at the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon. Entrants ran across Lake Washington, alongside the Puget Sound and beneath the Space Needle.
It was a day fit for a postcard — even Mount Rainier made an appearance — but it’s hard to appreciate the scenery when there’s a four-alarm fire blazing in your quadriceps.
“It was a gorgeous course,” said Gilmore, the second-place finisher who was 35 seconds behind Omae. “Of course, I was looking around a little bit less the second half of it.”
The women’s marathon was decided by a duel, Michele Suszek of Colorado beating Leah Thorvilson in a race with three lead changes over the final 6 miles. Suszek won by 12 seconds with a time of 2:38:49, the closest of the four overall races.
The men’s marathon was more like a battle of attrition.
Nine miles into the race, Omae and Gilmore pulled away as the course turned east onto the I-90 bridge. David Kiprop Yego and Jynocel Basweit, two other Kenyans, had been in the lead pack up to that point. The pace over the first third of the race gave them a shot at the state’s marathon record of 2:14:20, which has stood since 1984.
At the midway point of the race, the pace had slowed. Omae pulled away beginning at the 20th mile. Gilmore tried to keep up, but while his mind said, ‘Go!’ his body said, ‘No!’
“My legs said, ‘Hey bud, you’re going as hard as you can go,’ ” said Gilmore, who lives in San Mateo, Calif.
Gilmore was not originally scheduled to run in Seattle. He ran in a marathon in Minnesota last weekend, but withdrew after running 19 miles at race pace. He wanted to take advantage of his training and fitness level, which led him to secure an entry in Seattle.
Omae is Kenyan and lives in Mexico City. He didn’t arrive in Seattle until Friday night.
He raised his left hand as he crossed the finish line, reached to stop his wrist watch and then slowed to a walk. As he was handed the medal on a green ribbon that went to all marathon finishers, he doubled over at the waste, hands on his knees and head hung as the physical toll the race took.
Omae was hardly the only one hurting after Saturday’s race.
“Maybe we should have gone out a little more conservatively in hindsight,” Gilmore said.