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Kandie chasing his fifth Duke City Marathon title

OK, he can’t actually make the sun rise.

But it certainly might appear that way on Sunday when the Kandie Man looks to defend his title at the Duke City Marathon.

“I’m used to training at that time, so I’m looking forward to starting when it is still dark,” Albuquerque’s Solomon Kandie said with a chuckle. “The weather is supposed to be really good. So the dark won’t be a problem.”

Sunrise is officially listed as 7:18 a.m. on Sunday, meaning it will still be slightly dark when the starter’s gun pops at 7 a.m.

In those first 18 minutes, Kandie could already be in control as his adidas shoes break through the Downtown dew in Albuquerque.

The 26.2-mile course begins at Civic Plaza, heads through Downtown, continues north along the Bosque past Paseo del Norte, then back on the same path.

“It is really a beautiful course,” said Kandie. “That’s one of the reasons it is such a great race.”

While Solomon is typically all alone at the finish, he’s far from alone when it comes to his passion about the race. Burt Trembly, a Duke City board member, said the event continues to grow in popularity worldwide.

“It’s still rated as one of top 25 marathons in the world by The Active Times,” Trembly said. “They voted us No. 22 in the world, basically because of the enthusiastic volunteers we have on the course, the organization of the event and the beauty of the Bosque.”

The marathon is one of seven races here on Sunday featuring a combined 5,000-plus competitors.

“Our goal is to grow every year,” Trembly said. “For many, many years, we’ve been around that 5,000 total, and we know we will be up above that again. We’ve already topped last year’s number of just more than 5,000, and we still have (two) days left of registration.”

The Kenyan-born Kandie first competed in the race in 2012.

And other than in 2014 — when he had an Achilles’ injury and lower calf strain — Kandie has won the title each time he has participated. Trembly said the four titles is a record.

Kandie, a former Tulane University standout — who graduated with a degree in computer science information with a minor in business — is hoping to pad that mark Sunday.

“That is definitely one of the goals, but I have a few,” he said of being part of the 34th annual event.

“No. 1 is to finish. No. 2 is to win. No. 3 is to set a record and run a championship race from beginning to end.”

Organizers said that Kandie set the modern-day record in the Duke City, when he finished in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 3 seconds in 2012.

Kandie said he thought he was on the way to breaking the mark last year, but came up short at 2:31.20. It was about five minutes slower than his time in 2015.

“I want to break 2:24, which can be tough at 5,000 feet, but that’s what I will be trying to do,” he said.

Kandie, 39, has made Albuquerque his home for 10 years. He didn’t run in the Duke City until 2012 because he was competing in shorter distance races, “and it was a progression to work towards marathons.”

He spends much of his time working as a coach, especially with younger kids — including his and wife Janet’s own: 5-year-old son, Julian, and 7-year-old daughter, Nicole.

If Kandie does win his fifth title Sunday, it could be his last crown in the event for a couple of years.

The Duke City is the state’s only Boston Marathon qualifier, and Kandie said he hopes to run in Boston in 2018 as well as the 2018 New York Marathon.

“It’s a very special goal for me,” he said. “I want to run in the biggest races in the country, because I am so grateful to live in this country.

“The New York race is usually only a week or two after the Duke City,” he said, “so if I run in that, I won’t be able to compete for the title in the Duke City — but I will still run in the relay. I love this race.”

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