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Proposals, confusion mark 31st Duke City Marathon

There were four big winners at the 31st Annual Duke City Marathon on Sunday.

Three of them had no idea.

“I didn’t win,” said Gary Krugger when approached by the Journal following the race. “There was no announcement or anything like that.”

Confusion arose because Krugger saw two runners finish ahead of him. But those runners were later confirmed to be part of the relay race, which started at the same time as the individual marathon.

It was eventually determined that Krugger’s time of 2:41:36.12 was the day’s best – more than seven minutes ahead of the second place male runner, Ryan Fenton of Albuquerque (2:48:48.12).

Krugger, 29, is a machinist out of Flagstaff, Arizona. He has participated in at least one marathon in every state, and has won 42 marathons since getting into distance running seven years ago, including 10 this year.

Unlike the back-to-back defending champion of this race, Kandie Solomon, who finished seventh, Krugger doesn’t live a professional running lifestyle. He has no sponsors, works a full-time job and doesn’t fit the mold of the typical light diet, intensive training regimen of a competitive distance runner.

“This is my weekend hobby,” explained Krugger when asked about running. “For diet, I only eat pizza and I try to run 100 miles a week to prepare, but sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Just as it was sorted out that Krugger was, in fact, the male winner — Albuquerque’s Stefanie Tierney, 35, crossed the finish line as the first female to complete the whole 26.2-mile course.

“I had no idea,” Tierney said of her first-place finish. “My stomach was kind of bothering me, so I kind of kept it on cruise control, but I picked it up around mile 20 when I saw another girl with bikes around (bikes are supposed to follow the leader) and when I passed her I was told I was the first female. It was just so hard to tell.”

The bikes never did follow Tierney and there was no announcement of winners at the finish line.

This marked Tierney’s fourth time running the Duke City Marathon, also winning in 2006. Her primary reason for running is to lead by example.

“Now I coach soccer, girls junior varsity at St. Pius, so I run to be a good role model for them — try and lead by example,” she said. “They never want to run with me. I tell them if they get in trouble they have to run with me until I get tired, so they’re on their best behavior all the time.”

As it seemed, there was only one person that knew exactly how the end of his run was going to end.

Richard Cross, a 46-year-old man from Belgium flew across the world to Albuquerque with his long-time girlfriend, Alison Evans, to participate in the Duke City Marathon.

They ran the half-marathon portion of the event together, with Cross sprinting ahead the last quarter-mile to await Evans at the finish line, on one knee, engagement ring in hand.

She said yes.

“I had no idea. It was just so special,” Evans said.

It’s something Cross had been planning for several months now, and it went exactly as he had envisioned.

“I was trying to work out the best spot to do this, and here was it,” he said. “We met through running marathons in Paris. We have a bunch of friends who come from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, so we decided to come and do it here after the Balloon Festival.”

“For me, it was a beautiful way of saying our relationship started in this community of runners and the finish line seemed like a good place to start the next phase of our relationship.”

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