By George Thomas Beacon Journal staff writer
Becki Michael of Akron could feel the love. The winner of the women’s portion of the Akron Marathon crossed the finish line at the 2:45:57 mark and one of the first people she looked for was her mother, Denise Calabretta of Alliance.
Michael, an Alliance native, former runner for the University of Akron and Olympic trial qualifier, came to Akron with specific goals for her first run in this event.
“I wanted to break the course record of 2:39:09, but it was apparent at the halfway mark that wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “Ultimately, the goal was to win. I wanted to win the hometown marathon, and I did.”
On a Saturday morning that featured cool, cloudy weather, the kind tailor-made for this type of race, Michael beat her nearest competitor, Kent’s Shanna Ailes, by 15 minutes.
But her statements betrayed a hint of regret.
“It wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but I’m going to the Olympic trials, so I’m happy,” she said.
From the cheers that greeted her arrival at Canal Park, it was apparent that she had significant support in the stands.
“I can say that I had a city behind me, that’s for sure,” she said.
The weather may have offered cover for local runners, but for men’s winner Peter Kemboi, who lives in Hebron, Ky., but hails from Eldoret, Kenya, it was akin to running on a frigid December day.
“It’s too cold,” said Kemboi, who finished the run in 2:22:46.
Kemboi, 31, spends three months in the United States competing, then returns to Kenya to train for four months. The conditions in his native country are drier and more arid, and the slight African felt the chill in his frame.
It’s the second consecutive year that the Kenyan has run the race. Last year, he placed third.
“I’m very happy today. I ran good today and improved my time from last year,” he said.
Still, he said he felt as if he could have run the race at a better pace.
“If I had stronger guys to boost me, I would have run faster,” he said.
Kemboi and other competitors said that the course challenged them in areas where hills played a prominent role.
Cuyahoga Falls’ Dave Petrak came closest to giving Kemboi a run for his money with his 2:30:27 finish.
He ran the race with his twin brother, Dan, who placed eighth overall with a time of 2:39:45. Five Petrak brothers ran in some form or fashion.
“It’s probably in our genes,” he said. “We just have that stubborn element.”
That trait served him well, as he hung with Kemboi before his competitor finally broke away during the second half of the run.
“Right at the beginning of the first parking lot at Sand Run is when he first started to put some distance on me,” Petrak said. “He just kept increasing. He ran very well.”
Petrak took four years off from competitive running, primarily because his school schedule would not allow the dedication that it required. The Akron Marathon was his first race back.
“It definitely wasn’t the time I wanted. I went out ridiculously fast and I wasn’t able to maintain that pace, so I’m quite disappointed with my finish,” he said. “But I still ended up second, so it wasn’t that bad.”
Other results: Andrew Musova (2:38:07) of Santa Fe, N.M., won the men’s masters division. … Tracy Wollschlager (3:03:57) of Novi, Mich., won the women’s division in that race. … Akron’s Michael Capriolo won the men’s half marathon in a time of 1:10:56. Canton’s Brandi Howard finished first in the women’s division in a time of 1:28:18. … In the masters division, Brian Mazur of Jackson, Mich., won the half with a time of 1:21:33 and Marlene Bloomfield of North Olmsted placed first in the women’s division with a time of 1:32:32.
Results from the 2011 Akron Marathon can be found at www.akronmarathon.org.