0

Better weather, first-time winners highlight 7th Albany Marathon

LEFT: Edward Tabut, 29, a native of Kenya and Minneapolis, Minn., resident, throws his arms up in celebration after crossing the finish line Saturday as the overall and men’s winner of the 7th annual Albany Marathon and Half-Marathon. Tabut’s time was 2:21:04. RIGHT: Savannah’s Taylor Stephens, 22, not only was the women’s winner with a time of 2:58:14, but she accomplished the feat in her first-ever try at the 26.2-mile race. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

LEFT: Edward Tabut, 29, a native of Kenya and Minneapolis, Minn., resident, throws his arms up in celebration after crossing the finish line Saturday as the overall and men’s winner of the 7th annual Albany Marathon and Half-Marathon. Tabut’s time was 2:21:04. RIGHT: Savannah’s Taylor Stephens, 22, not only was the women’s winner with a time of 2:58:14, but she accomplished the feat in her first-ever try at the 26.2-mile race. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — Though the chilly weather wasn’t what most expected for the 7th annual Albany Marathon and Half-Marathon, it was a welcome change from last year’s conditions.

Tornado warnings and heavy rain marred last year’s race, so this year’s weather meant it was virtually smooth sailing for volunteer Lisa Riddle and the rest of event staff.

“We had to move the finish line because of all the flooding this year,” said Riddle of the recent heavy rain Southwest Georgia has received, forcing organizers to adjust at the last minute. “We normally finish down at the Riverfront. Luckily, we had to do the same thing about three years ago, so we were already prepared.

“Events like this put Albany on the map. We’ve got participants from all over. We’ve had runners from as far as Kenya and Russia in the past.“

And this year was no different.

Kenya native Edward Tabut, 29, by way of Minneapolis, Minn., was the overall and men’s winner with a time of 2:21:04, while the women’s winner didn’t have to come as far as Tabut for her victory: 22-year-old Taylor Stephens of Savannah was the first women’s finisher, crossing in a time of 2:58:14.

Even more impressive? Saturday’s race was Stephens’ first attempt at the 26.2-mile feat.

“This was my first marathon ever, so when I got to around 18 miles, my quads kind of shut down,” Stephens said. “I’m just glad there were no hills. Overall, the course was nice and well-marked. I had never been to Albany before, so it was nice to get to see the city.”

Tabut was also impressed by the course and how the race was organized, and he joked that he may tell some of his fellow Kenyan runners to come tackle the course.

“This course was very nice. It’s a fast course,” he said. “If there were more Kenyans at this race, the time would’ve been around 2:15:00 or 2:14:00.”

Tabut, who failed to break his personal-best time of 2:14:46, which he set at the Baltimore Marathon on October of 2010, said he’ll try at his next stop with his eyes possibly set on running in the famed Boston Marathon later this year.

“I’m training for the Duluth Marathon in June,” Tabut said. “I have no idea if I’m going to run the Boston Marathon.”

Winners of Saturday’s race are qualified for entry into the Boston Marathon, but that’s not the only thing that draws runners to the Good Life City each year.

“I think we have a special course because we go through so many different parts of Albany,” said fellow organizer Denise Dunnels. “We go through historic housing districts, down by the lakes, and downtown. A lot of races in bigger cities just go through business districts, so we bring the scenic aspect to our course.”

“It’s a team effort. We have escorts for each of our top three runners, consisting of police officers and our bike brigade, verifying the integrity of the race.”

The marathon is made possible by dozens of local businesses that support the race, and it’s sponsored by Snickers.

“It promotes economic growth for the city,” Dunnels added.

Christopher Zablocki of Essex, Conn., finished second overall with a time of 2:21:26, while another Kenyan native, Robert Wambua, took third place at 2:24:13.

Deanna McCurdy of Peachtree City finished second in the women’s field at 3:08:17, and Diana Sitar of Bradenton, Fla., rounded out the top three with a time of 3:10:05.

In the half-marathon, John Golden of Woodlands, Texas, took home first place with a time of 1:12:49, followed by Joshua Horsager of Columbus (1:17:07) and Cody Mallchok of Woodstock, who finished right behind Horsager with a time of 1:17:19.

Sarah Darvill of Atlanta placed first in the half-marathon with a time of 1:24:33, followed by Shannon Greenhill of Marietta (1:30:19), and Helen Phipps of Lynn Haven, Fla., with a 1:34:30.