With less training than ever before and persevering through a personal loss, Winnipeg's Michael Booth won the 2010 Manitoba Marathon on Sunday. It was his fourth overall title and his second-best time.
Booth took the lead around Mile 23 of the 26.2-mile race, spurred on by support from friends and co-workers at the Stride Ahead water station, and crossed the finish line at the University of Manitoba Stadium with a time of 2:32.33.
Booth won three straight titles from 2005 to 2007, but only his 2006 time of 2:31.54 was better than Sunday's.
The 30-year-old won despite limited training due to school and work commitments. He has also struggled with the loss of his coach, Chris McCubbins, who died on Aug. 21, 2009 after a battle with leukemia.
"Today's race went absolutely perfect, I just kind of ran my own race and didn't really worry about anyone else out there," said Booth, noting he started to struggle around Mile 21 and had to dig deep to keep going.
"I just tried to hold it together as much as I could. There was a lot of crowd support there and I remember last year, that's where my coach was standing when he was pretty sick so that (memory) kind of gave me a bit of energy," he said.
"I surely wasn't expecting it (to win)... it was just one of those days where I lucked out a little bit, not being super fit going in, and things just came together really nicely."
Cindy Sondag of Grand Forks won her second-straight title in the women's full marathon, cracking the three-hour mark with a time of 2:59.18.
Gina Aalgaard Kelly of Lisbon, N.D., won the women's half-marathon with a time of 1:24.39 while Winnipeg's Darcy Ready earned the men's half-marathon title with a time of 1:14.18, his fifth Manitoba title in that event.
Sondag was all smiles after breaking the tape, jumping into the arms of her husband Eric.
Though she ran the best time of her career on Sunday -- beating her winning time from last year by nearly 13 minutes -- she wasn't very confident and registered only this week.
She had struggled through the last few miles of the Fargo Marathon in May and wasn't sure she'd recover in time.
"About a week after (running Fargo) I started thinking maybe I should try to come back. I had such a great experience here last year and was so impressed with the organization and the race and everything.
"So after a couple weeks of doing a few workouts and feeling like I really was recovered, I called and asked if I could come and they said, 'Absolutely.' "
"Couldn't find a hotel in town though," she added with a laugh.
Men's half-marathon winner Ready found something that had been eluding him for a several years -- a win.
"I hadn't won a race in quite a few years now. I've always been the proverbial bridesmaid. I was happy to get across the line first," said Ready, a gym teacher at Wellington School.
Ready, a father of four, returned from a one-year absence from the Manitoba Marathon due to a case of pneumonia and a hernia.
Aalgaard Kelly, who placed third in the women's half-marathon last year, which was her first competitive race, said she's had a great year running so far.
She won the prestigious Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon in Orlando, Fla., on March 7 when she bested a field of over 13,000 female runners.
"That was a total surprise, shocker. Then I improved on my time here (Manitoba) this year, about four minutes faster than last year," said Aalgaard Kelly, a mother of three children ages 11, six and three and a professor in health service administration at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
She had been a runner in high school and college and started running again for fitness after her third child was born, but increased her training about a year ago to run competitively.
"I'm just seeing what can happen over the next few years and I'm having fun. That's the most important thing. It's actually more rewarding now because the hard work is starting to pay off at the end of the race."
1. Michael Booth, 30, Winnipeg 2:32.33
2. Jean-Paul DeGagne, 32, Winnipeg 2:49.07
3. Adam Aleshka , 30, Winnipeg 2:51.07
1. Cindy Sondag, 34, Grand Forks, ND 2:59.18
2. Reesa Simmonds, 25, Winnipeg 3:12.39
3. Cosette Taylor, 36, Winnipeg 3:14.25
1. Darcy Ready, 46, Winnipeg 1:14.18
2. Darren Klassen, 41, Winnipeg 1:14.21
3. Sam Vincent, 18, 1:14.29
1. Gina Aalgaard Kelly, 33, Lisbon, ND 1:24.39
2. Gina Tessman, 24, Winnipeg, 1:24.57
3. Luella Jonk, 442, Winnipeg 1:27.47