Ethopia native Alemayehu shatters Snickers Marathon record

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- A 27-year-old Ethiopian won the 2011 Snickers Energy Bar Marathon Saturday, breaking the course record by nearly two minutes.

Tesfaye Alemayehu broke away from the field of nearly 2,000 runners in the annual Albany marathon and half-marathon run, winning his second 26.2-mile race in less than two months.

Alemayehu, who trains in the high altitude mountains of Antioch, Calif., also won the Miami Marathon by beating more than 20,000 runners in late January, posting a time nearly five minutes faster than Saturday's winning finish of 2:17:09. This was his first visit to Albany.

"The time is not good," said Alemayehu, who has been running for nearly a decade and barely looked fazed by the run through the city on a wet Saturday morning. "I have run 2:11 before."

Running a distance of nearly the length between Albany and Camilla, the slender California resident was starting only his seventh official marathon. His time of 2:17:09 bested the course record set by James Boitt of Fairfax, Va., (2:19:01) in 2009.

Alemayehu said he runs several hours a week through forest and mountain terrain near San Francisco. He wasn't sure how many miles he runs weekly, though.

"I don't have a GPS," he said.

Alemayehu won the $3,000 first-place award for the men's division and enjoyed the Albany course. His pace was less than 5:20 a mile.

"The people were very friendly," he said following Saturday's run. "The course was challenging. The marathon is not easy. This is my career."

Click here to see more photos from the Mardi Gras festivities, bike race and marathon.

Ludmila Stepanova, a Hebron, Ky., runner who doesn't speak English, won the first-place award of $3,000 in the women's division with a time of 2:43:14. She finished sixth overall.

The half-marathon winners, who ran a distance of 13.1 miles, were Hilton Head Island, S.C.'s Jeffrey Ford (1:19:28) in the men's division and Flowery Branch's Michelle McKenzie (1:30:24) in the women's division.

Albany's David Marley placed fifth overall in the marathon with a time of 2:36:17.

Some of the other top local runners were Albany's Duncan Moore (Marathon No. 50, 3:20:30); Leesburg's John Kilpatrick (Marathon No. 86, 3:29:48); Albany's Walter Walker (Half-Marathon No. 19, 1:34:36); Albany's John Devereaux (Half-Marathon No. 36, 1:39:43); Albany's Karen Hamby (Half-Marathon No. 46/No. 6 female, 1:43:16); and Leesburg's Clay Thomas (Half-Marathon No. 49, 1:43:39).

The Snickers Energy Bar Marathon is billed as one of the top Boston Marathon qualifiers in the country. Race officials were not available for comment Saturday, but more than 20 percent of runners qualify for Boston marathon, according to the race's website. The marathon and half marathon are open to runners and walkers of all ages and skills.

Saturday's runners, some as young as 10 years old, came from all over the country and many traveled here from outside the states. The marathon, which started and ended near Riverfront Park and circled around the center of the city, was just part of huge day downtown. In addition to the more than 1,700 runners, another 300 participants were expected for the SB&T bike race during Albany's weekend Mardi Gras celebration, Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Lisa Riddle previously said.

All proceeds from the race will go to benefit the Willson Hopsice House in northwest Albany.