|Man and Wife Win At Brooks Pharmacy Ocean State Marathon
by Gerry Beagan
November 12, 2000
Igor Osmak of the Ukraine set out with leaders of the Brooks Pharmacy Ocean State Marathon on November 12 with his mind set on the personal challenge of running against time and his competitors; but he had to also be thinking of his wife, Olga Kovpotina, who was facing an equal challenge among the elite women runners behind him.
As the inexplicable often comes to pass, they would both wear laurel wreaths at the finish, and be further bound by their singular athletic excellence on the very same day. This is how it happened.
Osmak, 35, brought impressive credentials to the race with three 2:12+ marathon finishes over the previous 18 months, and he was well aware of the depth of the men's field. There was the previous year's winner, Jacob Kirwa, of Kenya, who was just back from heavy training in his homeland, and hungry to win again and better his 2:14:54 course record. Then there were several other Kenyans who could be king.
Through the mile, at 5:04, Kibet Cherop of Kenya went to the front and took up the chore of pacemaking. Behind him there was a group of a dozen runners. In the group was Osmak, Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia, the 1998 winner of Ocean State, Kirwa, and a host of men ready to challenge for the win, the course record bonuses, and the time incentives.
The tempo increased until Cherop tugged the group behind him through four miles at 19:58, and then the pace settled at five minute miles; at seven miles, the group clocked 35 minutes flat.
Like a rubber band being stretched and released, Cherop would open his lead and then the pack would get a bit closer giving every indication that the leader was tiring. At ten miles his time was 50:34, and by halfway at 1:06:23, he had authored a pace consistent with what he had run last year through halfway. But this year, he was caught by the group and quickly left behind.
The lead group had thinned to four men: the defending champion, Kirwa, Reuben Chesang, Osmak, and Daniel Kirwa Too, a late entry from Kenya who had a best of 2:11 for the marathon. Any of the four could win.
They went through 15 miles in 1:16:07 together, but by 20 miles - passed at 1:42:03 - it was Osmak and Kirwa in the lead, as first Chesang, and then Kirwa Too, fell off the pace that was forged through the first two major hills on the back side of the course. The race was on.
As the pair went through the next two miles, it was clear Osmak was fresher, smoother, and that he was pressing the issue. Just after 23 miles, at 1:57:51, on the last uphill and the steepest downhill of the course, Osmak went for the break, and Kirwa failed to respond. The Ukrainian was clear.
He opened the gap to 11 seconds in a mile, and by 24 miles at 2:02:51, he had a 22-second lead; meanwhile, Kirwa was being shadowed by Joseph Kibor, of Kenya, who was running his first marathon. He had not used his 60:26 half-marathon speed early, as he had passed ten miles with the group, but was now 52 seconds behind the leaders at 20 miles.
Osmak passed 25 miles at 2:07:56 and blew across the finish line with a course record 2:14:24, lopping 30 seconds off Kirwa's 1999 clocking. He earned $8,000 for the victory, and an additional $3,000 for breaking the course record.
With about a half-mile to go, Kibor caught and rapidly passed Kirwa, and crossed the line at 2:15:35. Kirwa was next at 2:16:06, and then Chesang with a 2:16:19; Tomix Costa closed out the top five, with a personal best 2:16:46.
In the master division, Andrey Kuznetsov, 42, of Russia, redeemed himself after his DNF from the previous year with a 2:16:49, which earned him a $5,000 bonus for breaking the master course record, and going under the bonus time of 2:17:00.
As the men finished, the lead women were engaged in a donnybrook, as five of the favorites for the winner's spoils ran toe to toe and heel to heel.
There was Kovpotina, Alena Vinitskaya of Belarus, runner-up in both the Hartford and Columbus Marathons in October, Natalia Volguina, 23, of Russia, with a best of 2:36:20 to her credit, Alevtina Naoumova, another Russian with a best of 2:29, and Margaret Kagiri, the first Kenyan woman ever to run at Ocean State, with a best of 2:37:10 at Twin Cities in October.
The quintet had gone together from the start through three miles at 17:47, five miles at 29:39, ten miles at 59:20, and 15 miles at 1:29:15. Unlike the men, who were sorted out in the hills, the women didn't relent, and they passed through 20 miles, at 2:00:15, still welded to each other.
But at the same place, the downhill after the uphill after 23 miles, Vinitskaya went out alone in order to try to take some of the speed out of the kick of the other women who she knew were better sprinters down the stretch. The chase by the others began to quickly sort them out, and only Kovpotina had enough left to overtake Vinitskaya,
Kovpotina, 29, crossed the finish line at 2:37:53 to join her husband in the winners' circle, and claim $8,000 for first place. Vinitskaya, 27, was next at 2:38:13, with Volguina close in third at 2:38:41, Naoumova, 39, fourth at 2:39:08, to make up for not finishing in 1999, and then Kagiri at 2:39:36, rounding out the top five.
Mary Burns-Prine, 43, of San Diego, CA was first among master women, as she moved up from runner-up at 2:58:05 last year, to claim the division with a solid 2:52:40.
It was a grand day for romance, as not only did a man and wife sweep the laurels, but also a young man completed the marathon, dropped to one knee, whipped out a ring he had been carrying with him to a 3:18 finish, and proposed to his girlfriend. She accepted, and they toasted each other with champagne.