Kirui, Vinitskaya take Pittsburgh Marathon

| Monday, May 3, 2010

Kipyegon Kirui had broken through the tape at the finish line Sunday when word spread of a suspected bomb two blocks up.

The Kenyan may have had even more spring in his step had he known the bomb squad was getting ready to do their thing outside the Greyhound bus station he passed before the runners were diverted.

But it wasn't necessary. Kirui — who didn't enter the race until Friday and said this was his first top marathon finish — beat Wilson Chepkwony by 32 seconds, finishing in 2 hours, 17 minutes, 12 seconds to claim the $6,500 first prize.

"I thought that his agent said they just got him (to the United States). So, if my recollection is right, that's pretty remarkable," elite runner coordinator Joe Sarver said.

Alena Vinitskaya of Belarus won the women's race in 2:42:33. Phebe Ko finished runner-up for the second straight year.

Kristin Price, the 2009 marathon winner and a Penn-Trafford graduate, won the women's half-marathon in 1:17:37, while Ryan Sheehan, who went to Baldwin, won the men's event in 1:05:13.

The rain-soaked race was interrupted briefly after police found a suspicious package on the 11th Street sidewalk. It turned out to be a microwave containing ravioli, police said, but both courses were routed off 11th Street while the bomb squad tended to the matter.

Kirui said the course was a little hilly but that he was confident in his running.

For most of the race, Isaac Macharia, another late entry, held the lead. Macharia got off to a blazing start; he had just two half-marathoners ahead of him when the 13.1-mile course split at Mile 11.

When he crossed the Birmingham Bridge to start up Forbes Avenue into Oakland, the next closest runners weren't visible. He was leading by 1:10 past Mile 17 into Homewood; Kirui and Chepkwony were side by side in second and third.

"Isaac went out with the half-marathoners," Sarver said. "When they were relaying (times) back, I was wondering, 'OK now, what's Isaac up to?' Those guys are going at a 1:03 or 1:04 pace, and he should be going at a 1:07 pace. I thought him going that hard that early was going to catch up to him, and it did."

At Mile 22, Kirui and Chepkwony finally caught Macharia, who finished fourth in 2:21:04. He collapsed after crossing the finish line and had to be carried to the medical tent.

"He's OK, but he was limping around pretty good after that," Sarver said.

The winning time was faster than last year's 2:22:51, the slowest in the history of the marathon. It was well off the course record of 2:10:24 set in 1995.

Last year's winner, Kassahun Kabiso, did not finish the race according to results listed on the marathon's Web site.

"I heard from a couple guys who saw Kassahun out there, than it looked like he was struggling early," Sarver said.

On the women's race, Vinitskaya and Ko worked together for the first half of the race.

"She was great. She said, 'OK, you tuck in behind me so you don't get the rain and the wind, and then we'll switch off,' " Ko said. "Then she started to surge, and I was like, 'Just go.' "

Vinitskaya, a veteran whose wins include the Georgia and San Diego marathons, said she was on her own for the last 15 miles.

"My legs are tired because there was a lot of water and my shoes were heavy," she said. "But I'm happy that I won."

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Marathon results

Results from the Pittsburgh Marathon are available at the race's website .

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