LEFT: Mackenzie Howe, 23, was the top women’s finisher Saturday at the Albany Marathon and Half Marathon. Howe finished with a scorching time of 2:54:31. RIGHT: Kenya native Pius Muasa Mutuku, 27, was the top finisher overall and the men’s winner at Saturday’s marathon with a time of 2:23:50. (Photos by firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — A Kenyan who travels the continent running marathons and a former collegiate cross country star who has only recently begun running the endurance race won the 6th annual Albany Marathon on Saturday on a rain-soaked course.
Pius Muasa Mutuku, a 27-year old Kenyan living in Alabama, won the men’s marathon, crossing the finish line first after 2 hours, 23 minutes and 50 seconds — a time slowed by the wet pavement storms brought to South Georgia this weekend.
“It took a lot of work to compete in (the weather),” said Mutuku, who spoke in a soft tone after cruising across the finish line among a steady stream of half-marathon runners, who all ran despite tornado sirens sounding in the distance.
Mutuku has run marathons all over the planet in recent years, finishing in the Top 10 in China, Japan and Hawaii. He ran in the Jacksonville Marathon less than a month ago, finishing fifth just behind last year’s Albany Marathon winner, Ethiopian Tesfaye Alemayehu, who broke the course record in Albany with a time of 2:17:09 in 2011.
Mutuku said he plans to send much of the $3,000 in winnings from Saturday’s race back home to his family.
“I have one wife and one child,” he said. “They live in Kenya.”
He plans to continue training for his next big race, the Honolulu Marathon later this year. Mutuku crossed 10 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Mosoti Lamech.
On the women’s side, 23-year-old Mackenzie Howe took home the marathon title in just her second official 26.2-mile run.
She finished in a time of 2:54:31, 11 minutes slower than last year’s women’s winner, although course conditions were much wetter this time around.
“It was a nasty day,” said Howe, a Georgia native from Athens who runs with the Atlanta Track Club. “The first marathon I ran in (and finished sixth) was the same kind of weather. I’m kind of used to it. Everyone was struggling through it.”
Howe was an all-conference cross country runner at Kennessaw State University before pursuing marathon runs. She won the Atlanta Sun Conference Championship her senior year and was the first cross country runner from the school to ever qualify for nationals.
“I enjoy it,” she said. “I’m just trying to get into the marathons.”
Howe also has major plans in the future with hopes of qualifying for the Olympic trials in 2016.
“I’ve got a while to go, but I’m still learning,” she said. “I’m still new to the marathons and I’m just hoping to get better.”
The half-marathon winners, who ran a distance of 13.1 miles, were former Colquitt County High and Darton College star runner Heath Lamb (1:17:09) in the men’s division and Atlanta’s Sarah Darvill (1:22:13) in the women’s division.
Lee County’s Jacob Kennedy, the 2011 Herald Player of the Year in boys cross country, finished eighth overall in the half-marathon with a time of 1:23:50.
Some of the other top local runners in the marathon were Leesburg’s Jane Spetosky, who was the 19th-fastest female runner (3:39:45). Pelham’s Angelia Horne (3:45:46, No. 25 women’s overall), Leesburg’s Nicholas King (3:48:48, No. 112 men’s overall) and Albany’s Richard Wilson (3:56:34, No. 138 men’s overall).
More than 600 runners competed in the marathon, and more than 800 in the half-marathon.
The Albany Marathon is one of several qualifiers for the Boston Marathon, although neither marathon winner planned to run in the event later this spring. Close to 1,500 runners ran in the Albany race around the city’s downtown area. The run is annually the centerpiece of Albany’s Mardi Gras weekend, although the street festival was moved to next Saturday because of inclement weather.
GET FULL RESULTS FROM SATURDAY'S ALBANY MARATHON AT: albanymarathon.com