Steady downpour doesn’t dampen runners’ spirits

Steady rain made for a very wet start on Oak Bay Avenue for the 1

Steady rain made for a very wet start on Oak Bay Avenue for the 1

Half-marathon mark falls under less than ideal race conditions

It was a day of records.

On the one hand, Gilbert Kiptoo crossed the finish line Sunday morning in a race-best one hour, six minutes, 39 seconds to win the men’s division of the Oak Bay Kool Half Marathon.

On the other, more rain fell during the race than any of the previous six instalments of the popular event.

Nonetheless, there were plenty of soggy smiles around the finish line as runners passed under the bright blue inflatable banner to stop their chip timers.

Blair Underhill and Roger Mennell, their soused Canuck jerseys hanging off them, said they gained an extra boost from the sparse crowds along the route because of their allegiance. Both 24 and teammates in a local ultimate league, they felt good about their times – 1:48.20 and 1:50.22, respectively – and looked forward to settling down in a warm room to watch game 1 of the Western Conference final in Vancouver.

“This is a win for us, now they have to support us (by winning),” Mennell said.

For Kiptoo, the Kenyan who finished second behind Saanich’s Jim Finlayson last year and reversed the outcome this time out, the constant downpour mattered little.

“It was coming down hard, but after a while it was like it was not raining to me,” he said.

Coached by Kenyan native and Esquimalt resident Mike Karigey, Kiptoo changed his strategy – pacing himself more as he went out to the Uplands, yet maintaining a slim lead over Finlayson.

It made a difference, as Kiptoo shaved a full two minutes off last year’s time.

“Coming back I needed to have more energy. We tried it in training and it was working,” he said.

Karigey, a communications expert in the Canadian navy who personally sponsored Kiptoo to come to North America to race, was pleased with his athlete’s time. Were it not pouring, their goal of 1:05 would have been achieved “easy,” Karigey said.

Finlayson stopped the clock in 1:07.57, almost a minute off his winning time of 2010.

Adam O’Meara of Victoria was well back in third, finishing in 1:14.53.

Defending women’s champion Care Wakely had other things on her mind on the course besides the weather come race day.

Having battled food poisoning the night before and managed just five hours’ sleep, she wasn’t sure her body would allow her to finish.

“I stopped looking at my watch at about the 5K split,” she said. “I was just trying to hang in there in second place (behind Sara Gross).”

In the home stretch, a male runner offered to help her chase Gross down and Wakely took the lead for good with about four kilometres left. The Langford resident and high school teacher timed in at 1:22.05; 10th overall and 72 seconds ahead of Victoria’s Gross (1:23.17).

Claire Morgan of Victoria was the third woman across the line, timing in at 1:24.27.

For full results, visit www.racedaytiming.ca/oakbayhalf2011.html.

editor@oakbaynews.com

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