Former Oregon runners sweep the half marathon.
Several fresh faces to the world of elite, long-distance running adorned the stage to receive their championship prizes after Saturday morning’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Seattle Marathon.
The quartet of winners included a Kenyan making his Seattle racing debut, a nurse at the UW Medical Center who trains in her spare time and two former University of Oregon runners who began the day with thrilling victories in the half marathons.
After a 7 a.m. start in Tukwila, about 26,000 runners raced along Lake Washington and Puget Sound beneath overcast skies while 45 bands staged along the course blared tunes ranging from rock to reggae and alternative to acoustic.
“There’s no other race like this in the world,” said 34-year-old Kenyan Jonathan Ndambuki, the men’s marathon champion. “I didn’t like the (cool) weather and the hills were tough, but the people and the music and sights were beautiful.”
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Ndambuki, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., won for the second time this year and completed the 26.2-mile course comfortably in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 51 seconds.
His winning time was about 2 ½ minutes faster than runner-up Teshome Kokebe of Lynnwood, who won the 2010 Seattle Marathon.
“I made my move (around the 22-mile mark) and didn’t look back,” Ndambuki said. “It feels so good.”
Sheila Croft of Redmond not only won her first women’s marathon, she shattered her personal best by 16 minutes and finished in 2:50:21.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I’d win,” she said. “My goal was to finish under three hours.”
Croft, 36, won the 2010 Seattle half marathon, but her best finish in a marathon was sixth in 2008. She plans to run the New York City Marathon in November and the 2012 Boston Marathon.
“Running is more of a hobby than anything else,” Croft said. “For some reason, I’m getting faster as I get older.”
For Carlos Trujillo, his first half marathon was a memorable one.
The 2008 Pac-10 champion in the 10,000 meters for Oregon sprinted past Scott MacPherson over the final 100 meters and completed the 13.1-mile course in 1:03:51, just two seconds before runner-up MacPherson.
The fantastic finish and cool, dry conditions helped Trujillo produce the fastest time in the history of the 3-year-old race and eclipse Washington state’s 18-year-old record of 1:04:49.
“It feels good,” he said. “It’s great weather for running a half.”
Trujillo, 25, hoped to finish among the top three and earn a sub-1:05:00 qualifying time for the USA Olympic marathon trials on Jan. 14 in Houston.
At the 8-mile mark, he broke away from a small pack and charged after MacPherson and Christian Hesch, who had a sizable lead.
“You never feel too comfortable,” said MacPherson, who won the Rock ‘N’ Roll San Antonio half marathon last year. “It’s always in the back of your mind that somebody can make a charge.”
Trujillo caught MacPherson with about a mile remaining, and the two raced shoulder to shoulder to the finish on the west side of CenturyLink Field.
A few minutes later, Mattie Suver also came from behind to pull out her first victory in a half marathon.
The 2010 Oregon graduate ran third in a small pack during the first half of the race before surging to the front with less than a mile remaining.
She finished in 1:15:40, just 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Caroline White of Klamath Falls, Ore.
“It was very exciting,” Suver said. “You don’t think about winning when you sign up, but I’m happy I won.”
The victory completed a comeback for the 23-year-old Auburn resident, who needed to take six weeks off earlier this year to recover from a left-hamstring injury.
She topped her personal best by five minutes and plans to compete in the Olympic trials with hopes of running in the 2012 London Games.
“This is my first big race where I actually feel good again,” Suver said. “Hopefully I can keep this going.”
The winners of the four races each received $1,000.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org