LeFrancois, Wagner keep it real at Duke City Marathon - Albuquerque Journal

LeFrancois, Wagner keep it real at Duke City Marathon

Paul LeFrancois of Santa Fe breaks the tape to win the Duke City Marathon’s Men’s Division on Sunday. He won in 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 47 seconds. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

There is nothing better than the real thing.

Yes, the Duke City Marathon did hold a virtual event a year ago, but organizers, participants and longtime volunteers clearly preferred an in-person event that kicked off Sunday morning at Civic Center Plaza.

Judging by the nearly indiscernible difference in entries, volunteers and fans from previous races, one might forget the world is still in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.

Carlos Navarro, an El Paso resident who has volunteered every year since the race’s inception, reunited with many acquaintances he hasn’t seen in two years.

“It’s almost like a family,” said Navarro, who volunteers as the finish line and start line coordinator. “You see the same people over and over again … for two years, we didn’t see them.”

Again, seven races were held beginning with the featured marathon at 7 a.m., and each subsequent race started in 15-minute increments after the marathon.

Paul LeFrancois, a 31-year-old from Santa Fe, claimed the men’s marathon in his first Duke City entry in five years, clocking 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 47 seconds.

Meanwhile, first-time Duke City competitor Erin Wagner of Albuquerque won the women’s marathon in 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 34 seconds. Wagner’s finish was ninth overall among all marathon entries.

“I was training to run a sub-3 (hours),” said Wagner, who recently moved to Albuquerque from Chicago. “I had a little injury that prevented me from doing some long runs and longer-tempo runs. I really just wanted to get a Boston (Marathon) qualifier, and see how close to three hours I could get.”

Wagner said early-morning conditions in which temperatures were hovering in the high 30s felt almost like home.

And it’s that home-like feel that brings people back each year — participants, volunteers, and fans — said Duke City Marathon board member Burt Trembly.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect because COVID is not gone,” Trembly said.

That said, Trembly knew if the race was held, the long-standing loyalty of the racing community would ensure success.

“We really didn’t know for sure (that the race would be held) until the last couple months,” Trembly said. “But the city of Albuquerque worked with us to make sure this was put on in-person and correctly, and I’ll tell you what, it’s been better than expected.”

What was perhaps better than expected was LeFrancois’ tremendous performance in his first marathon in two years.

LeFrancois ran for NCAA Division III Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and has continued that competitive urge in adulthood.

Five years ago, his Duke City Marathon time was just over 2 hours, 54 minutes. On Sunday morning, he shook his only earlier competitor near the halfway point of the race, and cruised home nearly 12 minutes faster than his 2016 time.

“Five years of running in between (the last Duke City race), it was a big jump,” LeFrancois said.

His last marathon was in Phoenix in 2019, but the year off from racing gave him additional time to assess his running goals, get back to basics, while also renewing that urge to compete.

“It was great to be able to compete again,” LeFrancois said. “The way this course works, you get to the halfway point, you turn around, and you start seeing the other people running. Everyone was just giving positive words and thumbs up. I missed that, but I also missed the encouragement and positivity.”

Previous years saw Duke City Marathon entries in the 4,000 range. Trembly said entry numbers will not finalize for another two weeks, but he expects those numbers to compare favorably to the pre-pandemic totals.

“We’ve been trying really hard for the last year and a half to put on a safe, but fun race for everyone,” Trembly said. “To be back like this and almost normal — with so many people having a good time — it feels really good.”

Results are available online at www.dukecitymarathon.com.

Erin Wagner breaks the tape to win the Duke City Marathon’s Women’s Division in her debut on Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


Lobos must toughen up mentally for rivalry with Aggies
ABQnews Seeker
The UNM Lobos have work to ... The UNM Lobos have work to do before being ready for a tough road environment like they'll see Tuesday against the NMSU Aggies.
Sanchez has another tough foe in COVID-19
Fighter hospitalized with pneumonia Fighter hospitalized with pneumonia
NMSU football: Martin era comes to close with win
In a contest finally announced as ... In a contest finally announced as head coach Doug Martin's last at New Mexico State, the Aggie ...
Wildcats overcome two-TD deficit for blue trophy
Featured Sports
Class 4A: LOVINGTON 41, RUIDOSO 21Wildcats ... Class 4A: LOVINGTON 41, RUIDOSO 21Wildcats overcome two-TD deficit for blue trophyBy JAMES YODICE Jo ...
Robertson downs Horsemen for 3A title
Featured Sports
class 3aRobertson downs HorsemenBy Glen Rosales ... class 3aRobertson downs HorsemenBy Glen Rosales For the Journal ROBERTSON 28, ST. MICHAEL'S 7 ...
Tigers run to their first state crown
Featured Sports
Class 5A: LOS LUNAS 40, Artesia ... Class 5A: LOS LUNAS 40, Artesia 28Tigers run to their first state crownBy Tristen Critchfield For t ...
No doubt this time around; Cleveland takes title
Featured Sports
RIO RANCHO - Cleveland was the ... RIO RANCHO - Cleveland was the fast starter this time. And also a perfect finisher. No. 1 Cleve ...
UNM women start fast, coast past UL Monroe
There was no hole for the ... There was no hole for the University of New Mexico women's basketball team to climb out of Saturday. Day two of the Van Chancellor ...
Emptying the Notebook: A forgetful trip to Las Vegas
ABQnews Seeker
Here are a few extra notes, ... Here are a few extra notes, quotes, tweets, stats and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after the Lobos' Friday ...