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Cool temps make for swift times at SJ Island marathon
This article was updated to correct the place of finishes by female runners in the half-marathon.
There's nothing like a bit of cloud cover and cool temperatures to inspire a runner to pick up the pace.
And no one perhaps benefitted more from Sunday's "ideal" conditions than Bothell's Greg Poffenroth, who finished the half-marathon portion of the 10th annual Kings Market San Juan Island Marathon/Half Marathon and 10K run in first place—for the second year in a row. The 28-year-old paid homage to the weather for helping to shave nearly seven minutes off last year's time.
"It's great not having the sun beating down on you, and the rain held off too." said the 28-year-old Poffenroth, who completed the 13.1-mile course in 1:21:36, a personal best. "And it was good to have a couple guys right behind me, pushing me."
Seattle's Troy Black was equally grateful to have Poffenroth out in front, setting the pace. The size and frequency of the hills took him a bit by surprise, said the 38-year-old, even though he scanned the course on the event website before the run.
"It was helpful to have out in front even though I could barely see him toward the end," Black said. "A friend told me it's really beautiful so I decided to give it a try. It's a really nice course, but it is a little hilly."
Nearly 200 people participated in San Juan Island's premier long-distance running event this year. That's roughly 40 fewer than a year ago, which provided ample room for a number of first-timers to test their mettle against one of the toughest courses around and lead the pack. Even if it may have been more than they bargained for.
"It's kind of hilly, I didn't know about that," said Maple Valley's Tim O'Brien, who, in his first-ever marathon, finished first, at 3:25:33. "I'm training for an Iron Man in Grand Coulee, that's why I'm here."
The longest distance O'Brien had run before Sunday's 26.2-mile course was a 10K.
"I guess it's a good time for me, it's my first ever," he said.
With five to her credit, Erin Neil of Golden, Colo., knows a thing or two about marathons.
"Boston is easier because a lot of it is downhill," said Neil, who notched a personal best in a first-ever trek over San Juan's half-marathon course, at 1:35:12. She was the first female to finish the Half.
"Everything is so green and I loved the big trees around mile six and seven," said Neil, who spent the weekend on San Juan with several friends and former soccer teammates from their collegiate days at the Colorado School of Mines. "It was really great conditions for running."
San Juan's Irina Bell, the first local female runner to finish the Half, trailed Neil across the finish line by about 16 minutes. Ann Lamar, at 1:38:21, and Kathleen Torres, 1:39:09, finished second and third among the women's field, respectively. Local runner Ross Lockwood, participating in the event for the 10th year, finished tenth among half-marathoners, in 1:44:13, followed two minutes later by San Juan's Jeff Roberson, who finished 11th.
Of 109 half-marathoners, San Juan Island's Carline Close, 17, finished 85th overall, in a time 2:52:05.
Bellingham's Angela Cota ran track and cross-country in high school, but believed that running 26.2 miles wouldn't be particularly healthy. She had a change of heart after reading journalist and oft-injured runner Christopher McDougall's 2009 epic "Born to Run" in March. She hit the road and began training straight away.
"Oh my gosh," the 24-year-old Western Washington geology grad student said after finishing her first-ever marathon in 3:32:49, good enough for first in the women's field. "The first 19 miles were amazing, then I hit a wall."
Whether conditions are "ideal" or not, 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles.