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11,273 winning stories!

Thousands taste triumph at biggest Marathon ever

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SHINGIRAI Badza and Brenlee Muska-Van Caeyzeele earned their due. History will mark them as the two big winners of yesterday's 25th Manitoba Marathon.

But the official history would be shamefully inadequate if it failed to also tell of the countless also-rans whose races were rich with drama, humour and courage.

The finish line was crossed by runners as old as 76 and as young as two (pushed by Dad). Two soldiers sweated it out in full army fatigues, 30-pound backpacks and army boots instead of running shoes. Some athletes staggered across the line in a daze of exhaustion, while one capped his finish with a handspring of exhilaration.

Celebrating the colourful aspects of the race does not detract from the accomplishment of Badza, 29, of Toronto, who raised his left arm in victory as he finished the full marathon with a time of 2:37.55, his second straight Manitoba Marathon crown.

And there was certainly high regard for yesterday's fastest woman among the record 11,273 participants, Muska-Van Caeyzeele, 40, of Winnipeg, who won her fourth full marathon title in 3:02:09. "I believe I can fly, I was thinking Michael Jordan the whole way; I don't believe it!" she exclaimed.

But when telling the story of yesterday's heroics, certainly a chapter should be saved for Dorothy Sadler.

She was among the record throng of runners -- 1,000 more than last year -- who hit the pavement at 7 a.m. at the mass start in front of the University of Manitoba's Max Bell Centre for the traditional Father's Day run.

Sadler, a retired Birch River school teacher, coasted through her eighth 13.1-mile, half-marathon yesterday, finishing to a deafening cheer from the crowd of marathon supporters at University Stadium.

After it was all over, she was already thinking ahead to future races -- like four years from now when she turns 80.

"I've challenged my children to run with me," Sadler said. "They're all young, just like me."

Sadler, however, wasn't all that satisfied with her time of just under three hours.

"It could have been my best time ever, but I took a wrong turn," the seven-time granny said. "I haven't done that before. I was enjoying myself and I must have followed the wrong person."

A dad who had been pushing his two-year-old daughter in a stroller (they both wore numbers), stopped just a few feet short of the finish line, lifted her out and then the pair ran across together. Everyone in the bleachers cheered as the little blonde celebrated Father's Day with Dad.

There were also cheers when a man just hundreds of metres short of finishing his full marathon flipped a handspring without missing a stride.

Rick Carlson, 29, and Damien Deegan, 28, finished their half-marathon with hand-holding rather than handsprings.

The two friends actually met in their mid-teens when Carlson found Deegan snoozing underneath a tree after some over-indulging at a Westwood party, but yesterday the pair locked hands and jogged underneath the finish-line banner together, finishing in just under one hour and 50 minutes.

"Most of our stories involve drinking and brushes with the law," confessed a grinning Deegan, running in his first-ever Manitoba Marathon. "This is one of our brighter moments.

"We'll be talking about this for years. I know we'll run it again, but this was very special."

Carlson, who has entered the half-marathon before, said it took very little convincing to get his chum to join him.

"I knew he was a good athlete, and I talked him into it," he said. "We've been friends a long time. It's a cool experience to run on your own, but it's even better running with a pal."

Kevin Koldesk and Bob Komosky epitomized an effective use of the buddy system.

The two members of the 17 Wing Supply unit, complete in full army fatigues, carrying 30-pound backpacks and waving the flag of their unit, encouraged each other along the half-marathon course.

To say they ran the entire duration would be a bit of a stretch -- however, allow the military men some latitude. They were the only ones in standard-issue combat boots.

"They're not my Nikes," Komosky said. "It was hard. The last two miles were tough. But we just get going. And when we came into the stadium, everyone was cheering us on."

Koldesk said the extra weight was really no big deal.

"It's about half what we normally carry, but hey, it's Father's Day. We gave ourselves a break," he said.

The duo shuffled across the finish line in just under three hours, 30 minutes, or by about 10:30 a.m. By then the heat and humidity had already become an issue.

The day had begun like a runner's dream, as cloud cover, a light drizzle and a breeze offered relief from the early-morning 17 C temperature. But with sunshine predicted for later in the morning, most believed the reprieve wouldn't last long.

They were right.

By 9:40 a.m., when Badza crossed the finish line as the men's full marathon winner, the sun was blazing and the mercury had risen to 21 C.

"It was getting tough out there," said Jennifer Harrison, a Winnipeg school teacher who wrapped up her very first full marathon in a time of about three hours, 40 minutes. "By the time I hit Bishop Grandin, I was wishing it was over."

Harrison, taking a bite of a cherry-flavoured popsicle, said she was nervous all week about her first 26.2-mile marathon.

"All week I was psyching myself out," said the veteran of several half-marathons. "Physically, I was ready. It was all mental... worrying about the extra miles. But once we got going and the waiting was over, it was great."

Officially, the course closed at 12:30 p.m., although there were hundreds of stragglers still out there.

Marathon executive director Shirley Lumb said participants were urged to quit by mid-afternoon due to the 29 C heat and humidity.

"We reached the white zone and that means it's dangerous," Lumb said, adding two participants were taken to hospital as a precaution yesterday. "Safety is our top priority, and once again our medical team did a fantastic job."

The race was relatively free of serious injuries. Two men were taken to hospital with problems that weren't life-threatening, Lumb said.

One man collapsed on Bishop Grandin Boulevard near the bridge over the Red River, while the other needed medical attention near the finish line, she said.

Lumb said the annual event, which raises money for the Association for Community Living in Manitoba, was another smashing success.

"It's an awesome day. It's one giant party," she said. "It just amazes me how this event keeps growing and growing. And from what I understand, the people of Winnipeg came out by the ton all over the course and cheered on our runners. So, congratulations, Winnipeg."

One young fellow who got plenty of support on his route was Samuel Unrau. The 13-year-old, born with spina bifida and paralysed from the waist down, was nearly speechless when he raced his wheelchair across the finish line.

"It's a miracle," said Unrau, a Grade 7 student at Arthur A. Leach school. "It's such an accomplishment for me. There were so many people clapping and cheering for me.

"When I came into the stadium, it was nothing like I've ever felt before."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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