July 17, 2019

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Running down a dream

Winnipeg teen wins women's full marathon after clinching silver last year

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A silver-medallist last year, Selene Sharpe set a new personal best on Sunday en route to winning the women’s full marathon gold at the Manitoba Marathon. </p></p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A silver-medallist last year, Selene Sharpe set a new personal best on Sunday en route to winning the women’s full marathon gold at the Manitoba Marathon.

Selene Sharpe is just like any other teenager — she goes to university, hits the lake in the summer and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. The only difference? Sharpe just won the Manitoba Marathon.

The 19-year-old Winnipegger was the youngest person racing in the women’s full marathon this Sunday, but that wasn’t a problem for her, as she was the first to cross the finish line inside Investor’s Group Field to win the marathon at 2:53:39.

“This means a lot to me, I’ve been imagining this for a really long time,” an excited Sharpe said.

Last year, the teen nearly nabbed the women’s top honour, finishing second in her first-ever marathon. This year, Sharpe blew her 2018 pace of 3:07:07 out of the water, besting it by over 13 minutes. But still, Sharpe was never 100 per cent sure that she had first-place in the bag.

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Selene Sharpe is just like any other teenager — she goes to university, hits the lake in the summer and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. The only difference? Sharpe just won the Manitoba Marathon.

The 19-year-old Winnipegger was the youngest person racing in the women’s full marathon this Sunday, but that wasn’t a problem for her, as she was the first to cross the finish line inside Investor’s Group Field to win the marathon at 2:53:39.

"This means a lot to me, I’ve been imagining this for a really long time," an excited Sharpe said.

Last year, the teen nearly nabbed the women’s top honour, finishing second in her first-ever marathon. This year, Sharpe blew her 2018 pace of 3:07:07 out of the water, besting it by over 13 minutes. But still, Sharpe was never 100 per cent sure that she had first-place in the bag.

"I was actually in second for up until mile 16 or something. For a while I was like ‘OK, well I guess I’m getting second again this year, that kind of sucks’ — not really sucks, but you know," she said. "Then it was just staying positive and sticking with my plan, which was just sort of stay at an even pace for the first half or so, see how I’m feeling and then, maybe, speed up a little bit. So yeah, I think it was good."

Sharpe says training and running the marathon has helped her overcome a lot of challenges in her daily life. The Manitoba Marathon also has a foundation supporting people with intellectual disabilities, which is another big reason why this race is close to her heart.

"I have a family member who actually has Down syndrome and he’s my best friend. He’s my biggest supporter and he’s just a really big part of my life and my family’s life... It’s been a very important part of my life because of my family members."

Taking part in the marathon is a tradition for her family, she said. This year, both her siblings ran the half-marathon, her mom the 10K, while her dad cheered from the sidelines.

But while the Sharpes are a sporty bunch, another place you’ll commonly find Selene is behind the microphone. The teen just finished her second year at the University of Manitoba studying voice in the faculty of music. While some may contest that people can’t be equally artsy and sporty, Sharpe begs to differ.

"They’ve both been in my life for a while. I don’t actually listen to music (while running), which is kind of ironic, but I know a lot of runners use music in that way. It requires a certain level of commitment and focus I think, both arts and sports as well," she said.

While Sharpe is a first-time marathon winner, the victor in the men’s full marathon this year is no stranger to it.

David Mutai, 33, ran through the banner at 2:27:09 to take home first place on Sunday morning.

This was Mutai’s fourth full marathon — and fourth full-marathon win — in under two months. Mutai says getting into the right mental state is the most important part for him during a race.

"I think of winning the race and I see myself winning. It gives me joy because this is my passion, I was born to do it... Running is in my blood," he said.

Mutai is originally from Kenya, but began travelling to Canada in November 2017 to compete in marathons. In previous years, Mutai raced in — and conquered — plenty of half-marathons.

Running the 42.195 kilometres was new territory for him when he tried it out this year. "In 2017, I came to Canada in the wintertime. It wasn’t so good for me," he said with a laugh. "Canada is so friendly and it’s so diverse, but marathons are what brought me to Canada, as an athlete."

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Seasoned marathoner David Mutai won his fourth full marathon in under two months with a win in the men’s race on Sunday.</p></p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Seasoned marathoner David Mutai won his fourth full marathon in under two months with a win in the men’s race on Sunday.

This spring, Mutai moved to Etobicoke, Ont., as a home base to train for marathons. He plans to check off a few more full marathons from his bucket list this summer before heading back to Kenya in the fall.

While Mutai didn’t hit a personal best in Sunday’s race, he said his first-place finish was important to him for a completely different reason.

"I’m very happy. As a father today, to win on Father’s Day is a gift for me," he said. Mutai’s wife, five-year-old girl and four-month-old boy are in Kenya, but he said he’s excited to share the news of his win. "I’m happy to have won this. This is my Father’s Day gift to me and my family."

In the half-marathon, both men’s and women’s records were broken. This year, the Manitoba Marathon was held in conjunction with the Canadian Half Marathon Championships, bringing out elite runners from across Canada.

Tristan Woodfine from Cobden, Ont., finished first in the men’s half-marathon with a time of 1:04:44. He broke the record of 1:05:05 set by Winnipegger Abduselam Yussuf in 2015.

"We got out fast, it definitely made the last five or six kilometres pretty difficult. I was out there by myself, so it was a bit of a grind at the end, but happy to come out on top with the win."

Woodfine says this marathon was his "goal race" for his spring training block. The next big race the 25-year-old has his sights set on is the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in the fall.

"I think everyone likes to come out and run national championships. It brings out a good field and there was a lot of really strong guys out there, so to come away with the win feels good," he said. "I just enjoy trying to push yourself and see how good you can get and try and get a little bit better every time out."

Malindi Elmore of Kelowna, B.C., set the new women’s half-marathon record, finishing with a time of 1:11:08. That beat 1:19:48, which was set by Janis Klecker in 1986.

Elmore was only four years old when she was inspired to become a runner. While watching American athlete Joan Benoit win the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the women’s marathon championships, Elmore knew running was the sport for her.

"It kind of fuelled my love of running. As a little kid, I’d love to race other people. That was my favourite activity," she said.

Elmore raced competitively in high school, but made her childhood dream come true in 2004, when she raced the 1500 metre in the Olympics. She retired from running seven years ago, but decided to start training again after the birth of her baby last June. Now, running is one of Elmore’s favourite ways to decompress.

"Running is so special because you can just be outside in the trails and it’s kind of meditative. Then some days you have to go really hard and you get a really good burn and that’s good, too. It’s kind of like my treat every day for an hour or two," she said.

While Elmore has never lived in Winnipeg, she does have a special connection to the city.

"My husband was born in Winnipeg, actually. He won the ’99 Pan Am Games when they were here, the gold medal in the 1500m... and we’re Winnipeg Jets fans," she said.

Now that the race is over, Elmore is looking forward to going home with some bragging right and spending time with her kids.

"It’s pretty cool to win a Canadian championship. That’s why I came, for the opportunity to drape myself with a flag and celebrate our amazing country."

devon.shewchuk@freepress.mb.ca

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