Jason Howe figured he was on his way to a top-three or top-four finish at the 36th Annual Duke City Marathon on Sunday morning.
Some unfortunate mishaps from the lead runners, though, lifted the Salt Lake City native to the top spot as he won the men’s marathon in 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 4 seconds.
There was significantly less excitement on the women’s side.
Sarah Kiptoo, a professional runner based in Santa Fe, grabbed the early lead, and finished with a winning time of 2 hours, 51 minutes, 28 seconds — 25 minutes ahead of the runner-up.
Kiptoo’s time was the best since 1992, when Susan Beldus captured the women’s marathon in 2 hours, 50 minutes, 23 seconds.
A veteran of 114 marathons over the past 18 years, Howe wasn’t on pace for a personal best, but he found himself in a serendipitous position as the race leader missed the halfway mark turn taking him off course, and the second-place runner was disqualified when he took the halfway turn early.
“I was aware (of the missed turns), and I feel bad for them,” Howe said, barely out of breath after 26-plus miles. “I’ve missed turns before.”
With the pathway cleared, Howe finished five minutes ahead of the next-best contender.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest, but I loved it,” Howe said. “It’s a beautiful course, the fall colors were out, and I loved the trails; it was gorgeous….it was a flatter course, which is definitely better for my recovery.”
Kiptoo, a native of Kenya, waged a bit of an internal battle early on as she struggled to get comfortable over the first three miles.
But after realizing she was the established leader with no one in sight, she eased back on the throttle and cruised the rest of the way.
“It felt good and I was happy with my time,” Kiptoo said. “I needed to do some long runs, and I’m training for the Philadelphia Marathon, which is next month.”
Admitting afterward that she wasn’t in peak physical shape – noting a personal-best marathon time of 2 hours, 36 minutes – Kiptoo perked up when told she may have run one of the best women’s times in race history.
“(What) it means is that I can do even better (in this race),” Kiptoo said.
Heading toward its fourth decade of races, Duke City Marathon officials added upgrades to enhance the runner experience, said Duke City Marathon board member, Burt Trembly.
Participant medals were added to the 10K race, which spiked entries; the selection of t-shirts as part of the entry fee was increased to men’s and women’s cut shirts — with two color selections — but the most significant enhancements were the addition of a video board in the City Plaza adjacent to the finish line and video streaming of the race.
The large video board aired live rotating pictures of runners on the course that streamed through the Marathon’s Facebook page at dukecitymarathon.tv.
Cameras were situated on the lead bicycles, along with several cameras placed throughout the course. Operators of the cameras continually cut away to different shots of runners – and walkers on the course.
“(The streaming) was just an idea we kind of came up with at the last minute,” Trembly said. “We thought it would be really neat for people to watch their family members on the course, whether they were here or not. And they can go back later and watch the recorded stream. It was a new, exciting addition, so we did it.”
Complete races results are available HERE.