|Rono Repeats, Klimina Bursts Upon Marathon Scene
by Gerry Beagan
Ocean State Marathon
October 13, 2002
By Gerry Beagan
With both the men's and women's division defending champions, both event record-holders, and two former women's division winners in the elite field, the 10th edition of the Brooks Pharmacy Ocean State Marathon on October 13, at Providence, RI, promised to be an extremely competitive event. And it certainly was. The cooling, intermittent showers kept the humidity down and the competitive pace aggressive, as over 900 entrants burst from the starting line in front of the State Capitol. It was a good day for marathoning.
A pack of 15 runners led the men through the first mile at 5:08, and all of the pre-race favorites were in attendance. Elly Rono, 32, of Kenya, the defending champion, was in the midst of the group, his 6-foot plus gangly presence making him an anomaly compared those around him. Off his 2:10:57 winning performance at the Grandma's Marathon at Duluth, Minnesota last June, he deserved deference both for his size and his ability.
The accompanying cast included several runners both capable and determined to wrest the laurel wreath from Rono's brow. Among them were James Karanji, 23, of Kenya, who brought youth and a 2:14:59 personal best to bear, Gilbert Rutto, 41, of Kenya, who placed second last year and improved his masters personal best to 2:15:34 at Pittsburgh last May, Sergey Fedotov, 30, with a 2:11:16 best, Andrej Krzyscin, 35, of Poland, who sported a 2:11:42 best, Abel Gisemba, 31, of Kenya, with a marathon best of 2:10:58, and Igor Osmak, 37, of the Ukraine, who was the 2000 champion and author of the event record at 2:14:24.
At mile three, Gisemba and Krzyscin went to the front, as the group passed the mark at 15:27, and then hurtled down the Atwells Avenue hill to record a 4:51. Then the pace settled a bit to 5:01 to bring the group through five miles at 25:19, and Gisemba pressed his effort to challenge the hill behind the Providence Place Mall.
With miles of 5:06, 5:07 and 5:03 through the downcity loop, and with Gisemba forging the pace, the leaders came up to nine miles at 45:53. The pack of seven included Krzyscin, Gisemba, Rono, Osmak, Rutto, Kondrashov, and Karnja and they passed ten miles at 51:03 in very close order. They passed into Roger Williams Park, and upon the halfway point at 1:07:05 - and less than two miles later, at 15 miles and 1:16:48 - they were reduced to Rono, Rutto, Kanji, and Gisemba, with the two Russians trying vainly to regain position.
With the race over the refigured, all-Providence course rejoining the old course configuration just after 16 miles, Rono and Rutto were going over ground they covered the previous year, and were prepared for the last, most difficult ten miles. By 20 miles, on a slight uphill, the four passed together, with Rono pressing a two second advantage at 1:43:00. He was clearly ready to test his fellow Kenyans. And on toward Ocean State's version of "heartbreak hill", Irving Avenue, first Gisemba, and then Rutto succumbed. Then, just after cresting the hill and turning onto Blackstone Boulevard, Karanja faltered. By mile 23, Rono, at 1:58:00, was sailing along with a 13 second lead over his only remaining pursuer.
For the next two miles, he pressed his effort in an attempt to squeeze precious seconds out of the remaining miles, trying to get close to the event record. But at 25 miles, after a 4:58 mile, he knew the 2:08:34 time left him an almost impossible task.
"I knew all chances for a record or the bonuses were gone, and I concentrated on finishing well and strong," he said.
He was 24 seconds off the event record set by Osmak two years ago, and became the first repeat winner of the race in the event's ten year history. Karanja was next at 2:15:09, and Rutto was the first master finisher with his 2:17:21.
In the women's race there was little drama until the devastating speed and power of Russian Viktoria Klimina was nearly neutralized by being misdirected. Klimina, 26, the event record-holder and defending champion, led soon after two miles - and who was dispatching the field of fellow Russians and the Ukrainian Phenom, 47-year-old Tatyana Pozdnyakova - was led off course as the film-crew motorcycle and two male competitors were steered up a highway off ramp instead of remaining on the surface road. The mishap was a case of misunderstanding a course flagger's direction just before eight miles. The motorcycle quickly turned about, and the runners hurdled a guardrail and regained the correct course. Once set straight, Klimina continued her assault on both the event record of 2:30:28 run by Pozdnyakova last year, and the sub-2:28:00 bonus of $20,000. Behind her, Podznyakova, Larissa Zousko, 33, the 1996 winner at Ocean State, Svetlana Demidenko, 26, and Svetlana Shepleva, 33, all of Russia, chased Klimina and battled each other for valuable position. The pace was so stern that the event record was certain to be broken, but the question remained: by how many women?
By 26 miles, Klimina clearly was the best, as she led a hard-charging Pozdnyakova toward the Rhode Island Convention Center finish. Her 2:28:30 put her 30 seconds clear of the two-time champion, but 31 shy of the time incentive bonus. Upon learning of the course mishap from the woman leader's escort bicycle team, it was decided by race officials and officers of Brooks Pharmacy that she would have otherwise been under 2:28:00, and should be awarded the bonus.
With Pozdnykova setting an unofficial world best of 2:29:00 for masters women, and Zousko at 2:29:42, and Demidenko at 2:29:56, the $4,000 bonus for the event record was split four ways.
Kelly Keane, 30, of Bow, New Hampshir placed 5th, with a 12-minute personal best of 2:36:26. The time is second only to Christine McNamara's 2:36:21 of 1996 among U.S. women at Ocean State.
The race was filmed by Salmini Films and will be televised on NESN, MSG, Fox Sports NY, and internationally on Marathons.