Ellensburg man sets new course record in San Juan Marathon

Alone from the start

Native of Oaxaca shaves a full 30 minutes off last year’s winning time

Manuh Santos, 28, of Ellensburg obliterated the competition in Sunday’s sixth annual King’s Market San Juan Island Marathon, shattering the old course record of 2:43.22 and finishing a full 30 minutes faster than last year’s winning time.

Santos’ time of 2 hours 38 minutes raised eyebrows from the most experienced marathon veterans.

“He ran a two-thirty-eight on THAT course?,” asked a wide-eyed Mike Wakabayashi, 60, of Spokane, as he regained his composure after finishing his 145th marathon.

Running in nearly perfect 50-degree weather, Santos took the lead early. Before he hit the first mile mark, his pace was faster than that of the half-marathoners who usually come out of the gate the fastest. Santos averaged 6-minute miles throughout the race.

Not wearing a watch, Santos didn’t know his own pace.

“Downhill was hard,” a soft-spoken Santos said after the race. “It was literally hard to breathe,” he said, citing the moist sea air, different from the dry air he’s used to in Ellensburg.

This is the fourth marathon the Oaxaca, Mexico, native has entered; he won two of those. He graduated from Davis High School in Yakima and didn’t like running when he was younger. “I was a high school runner, but I didn’t enjoy it,” he said.

The fastest woman in the full marathon was Debbie Polson, 38, of Crawford, Colo., who finished with a time of 3 hours 24 minutes.

“Today, it was the legs that hurt,” she said. “It was fun. It was pretty. It was hilly.”

Having not run a marathon in the past year and a half, Polson was on vacation with her family and didn’t know much about the marathon prior to the start.

“I was getting the idea after we saw the other islands and stuff, I was beginning to get the idea that I was going to be on a hilly course,” she said.

The half-marathon was won by Kevin McCrabb, 45, of Bonney Lake in a time of 1 hour 22 minutes. The fastest female runner was Cori Metzgar of Moscow, Idaho, with a time of 1 hour 39 minutes.

The fastest local runners were Greg Ripley of Orcas Island, who finished fifth in the marathon; and Brian Goodremont of Friday Harbor, who finished fifth in the half-marathon.

Participation in this year’s event was significantly lower than last year, with 46 runners in the marathon and 215 in the half-marathon.

Event organizer Clark Gilbert wasn’t sure of the reasons for the decline in participation, but was pleased nonetheless with the turnout.

“It’s been our scientific research that we think there’s two factors: the wet cold winter affected people’s training, and the price of gasoline to get here. And also the down economy. We were hoping for better, but we actually recovered better than we thought,” he said.

Gilbert said the lower turnout was typical of national trends. “The small marathons are down, the large marathons are up,” he said.

The event brought out heroic efforts in local runners as well. BooBoo Keane of Friday Harbor ran the event for her first time. While not her first marathon, it was the first time she had run this challenging course.

Prior to the race, Keane was a bundle of nerves. “This is the hardest marathon you’ll ever do. It’s either up or down. It’s all mental. I’m very emotional about it because it’s my own backyard.”

With the help of her friend Kerry Andrews, who joined her and talked to her non-stop for the last three miles, Keane finished in 4 hours 41 minutes — with enough left in the tank for a spirited kick at the finish.

She was cheered on at the finish line by a cadre of supporters, including her daughter, Julia, and friends holding flowers — and a hamburger.

“I can’t believe I did it,” she said, visibly shaken and exhausted. “It’s such a difficult run, and I did it.

“There’s no one else out there with you.”