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City runners sweep marathon, half-marathon titles

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It was wet. It was windy. It was cold.

But if you asked the runners at the University of Manitoba, it was perfect weather for a marathon.

About 12,200 runners took part Sunday in the Manitoba Marathon's full marathon, half-marathon, 10K, marathon relay, 2.6-mile Super Run and Mini Mites kids run.

Preparations began as early as 2 a.m. as some of the more than 2,000 volunteers helped set up arches, direct runners and prepared for a long day.

Less than 70 minutes after the 7a.m. start, 20-year-old Abduselam Yussuf kicked off the Winnipeg sweep, winning the men's half-marathon with a time of 1:09:32. He's been running since Grade 9 and was hoping he'd win Sunday, but wasn't necessarily expecting it. The rainy weather, he said, was great for running.

"It was really nice, because it wasn't too humid. I didn't have to stop for water because I was already getting enough," he said.

About 15 minutes after Yussuf's win, Cathy Cullen clinched the title of women's half-marathon winner, at 1:25:22. She already had a few wins under her belt, as the women's full-marathon winner in 2009 and third place in 2012. She decided to try the half this year after the birth of her son just six months ago.

"It was kind of my way to get myself to get back in shape," Cullen said.

Like Yussuf, she likes the rain better than a hot, sunny day.

"For me, cool rain is way better than heat," she said.

Just over an hour after Cullen crossed the finish line, Brian Walker ran in to win the men's full marathon with a time of 2:36:44. Walker is a familiar face at the marathon: Last year, he came in second place, as well as the year before. He won the men's half-marathon in 2011.

As Walker crossed the finish line, he immediately fell into the arms of two safety workers, who escorted him to the medical tent. Even an hour later, he was still limping as his leg kept cramping up, and his Achilles heel wasn't as trained as it usually was. He said he'll spend the next few weeks recovering.

Walker said he "hit the wall" during the run, a term used by runners to describe a sudden fatigue that's related to depleting glycogen in the muscles. Fighting through that fatigue was challenging, he said.

"I hit the wall pretty good and was trying to hold on... when I'm out there for so long by myself and I don't feel good, it's a huge mental test," Walker said. What got him through was the support he got from his family, many of whom are also runners. His wife, Darolyn, won the women's half-marathon last year, and his uncle, Bob Walker, holds the race's marathon record by a Manitoban.

"I have lots of family out there cheering, and it's been a huge support for me," he said.

Walker said he's been targeting first place in the full marathon for a few years. He's been running since he was a child, and his father took him out to take part in the Super Run.

"It's a huge relief in a way, because it was really hard out there today," he said.

Finishing second was Winnipeg's Bradley Keefe, in 2:39:29, followed by East St. Paul's Darren Klassen in 2:41:23.

A little after the three-hour mark, Alice Sherwin became the winner of the women's full marathon with a time of 3:04:38. Like Walker, she said the race was gruelling. "After 15 miles was awful... my boyfriend, who is also my coach, was meeting me at certain points in the course and saying 'You're four minutes up! You're four minutes up!' " Sherwin said. Sherwin said she hit the wall a few times, but as a new teacher the thought of her students kept her going.

"I wanted to stop so badly... a few times I thought about my class, and I know my school's going to be proud tomorrow," she said.

After winning a few half-marathons and getting second place in the full marathon, she said she's happy with finally being first.

"I don't know how I can get better for next year. I guess go faster," she said.

In second was Saskatoon's Jennifer Kripki in 3:07:20 while Winnipeg's Reesa Simmonds was third in 3:11:46.

As has been the trend in recent years, the number of marathoners is dropping. There were 579 finishers this year, compared with 636 in 2013. The bulk of the participants ran the half-marathon -- 3,126 -- and the 2.6-mile Super Run, with 2,890 runners.

In the wheelchair event for the marathon, Kris Cowley of East St. Paul won in 2:26:34. Danny Fletcher of Portage la Prairie was second in 2:42.59.

Runners started arriving as early as 5:30 a.m.

Neville Ratwatte and his son, Yehen Ratwatte, were preparing for their run before the sun had completely risen. Neville ran the half-marathon, while Yehen, 10, ran the 10K. Ratwatte said he trained all winter, but inside on his treadmill, to avoid the cold. He wasn't expecting to set any records, though.

"I'll be glad if I finish with a reasonable time," he said.

Adrian Heidinger ran the Super Run together with his daughter, Anika. Anika, 11, runs as part of school and said she loved seeing so many people that enjoy running as much as her.

Anika's goal was to beat 25 minutes, and she easily beat that goal, but also ended up finishing the race almost a full minute faster than her father, finishing at 22 minutes and 35 seconds.

The opening ceremonies paid tribute to John Robertson, founding father of the marathon, who died this year.

Shirley Lumb, executive director of the Manitoba Marathon, said each marathon brings a fresh start.

"Nowhere else do you find such camaraderie, such community support," she said.

Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press

Phillip Duncan nears the finish line.

Manitoba race times compared to world records:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2014 B1


Updated on Monday, June 16, 2014 at 6:37 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds video, adds slideshow, removes photos

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