Runners take marks for Marathon Festival

Sun reporter

A bed in Connecticut was too comfortable, so Omea Peter will tour Baltimore.

Brian Jackson is here, despite little rest since Hurricane Katrina forced him out of his Louisiana home.

They cover the gamut of professionals and reformed joggers who are entered in the fifth annual Baltimore Running Festival, which takes off from Camden Yards tomorrow morning. They're among the some 3,200 who will traipse 26 miles, 385 yards up boulevards, through neighborhoods and around the perimeter of Fort McHenry in the featured marathon.

The Under Armour Marathon has its fifth course in as many years, and this one probably won't last long, either.

The half-marathon closed at 4,000 last month, and with a team relay, 5K and children's fun run, the entire field could exceed 11,000 when walk-up registration at M&T Bank Stadium closes today. The entries represent 48 states and 24 nations, and range in age from Robert Gralley, a Baltimorean who turns 80 in three months, to Frederick resident Nolan Giegel, a 15-month-old who's probably not doing intervals just yet.

The $100,000 purse includes $15,000 for the marathon winners, attracting men like Peter, who grew up in the Kenyan running culture that produced the first four Baltimore winners.

Jackson, 44, didn't catch the fever until his February debut, which led to a vow to run six marathons in as many months this fall and winter. That plan did not alter when he was forced to evacuate his home in Metairie, La., on Aug. 27. In between jobs when Katrina struck, he has been on the road since, spending several weeks in Canada and fulfilling his plan to run Baltimore.

"I packed for three or four days when I left Metarie," Jackson said. "I had a pair of running shoes, some shorts and T-shirts. I've probably doubled my wardrobe, because every race brings another shirt. I know my home is still standing. I saw a satellite photo online, but I still don't know when I'll be going back."

Elite credentials Jackson is among the majority, happy to break four hours. Peter's surprise entry gives the marathon at least five men with sub-2:15 credentials.

One of 16 Kenyans who live and train in the altitude of Toluca, Mexico, Peter ran a personal best of 2:13:25 in 2001. Last month, he won the Leon Marathon in Mexico, and lay down a week ago tonight feeling good about his chances in the Oct. 8 Greater Hartford Marathon. He awoke at 4 a.m. on race day, returned to bed and didn't rise again until the leaders were in mile two.

"I look out the window," Peter said, "and see runners."

He's sharing an Inner Harbor hotel room here with fellow elite entry Joseph Mutinda. Ronald Mogaka, another Kenyan, is the only man in the field who has broken 2:13, but that was in 1999. The status of David Cheruiyot and Fred Getange, two other men with roots in the Rift Valley, remains iffy because of visa issues.

The lead pack should also include a strong Eastern European contingent.

What Kenya has done for the men's race, Russia has meant to the women's. Yesterday's last-minute entries included Elvira Kolpakova, a 33-year-old who ruled the first three Baltimore Marathons. She was missing last year, when Ramilia Burangulova won. She's back to defend, as the bump in prize money, which tripled in 2004, may be too rich for Kolpakova's blood.

She was the only woman under three hours in 2003, but eight got there last year.

Relayers a force The Falls Road Running Store should prevail in the team relay, but if anchor Brian Godesky finds himself running shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the Kenyans as they cut through Camden Yards and the warehouse in Mile 26, he knows to back off and not diminish the marathoner's glory.

Kevin Plank, the Under Armour founder, is wearing a hand brace after surgery to repair a tendon he damaged while testing some prototype cleats in a flag football game, but he'll help one of his company's many relay teams. He took the second leg, a seven-mile stretch, because it includes Under Armour's headquarters at Tide Point, and Fort McHenry.

Road races have always gone through there, but race director Dave Cooley said this is the first time the national park has been open to one as logistically challenging as a marathon. The leaders will speed through before 8:55 a.m., and the back of the pack won't be by for another two hours.

Plank said that Mayor Martin O'Malley was among the influences behind the addition of Fort McHenry.

"It was nuts," Plank said, "to have people from around the country come here for a marathon, and not go through Fort McHenry."

A second change It necessitated the subtraction of a stretch through . Announced four weeks ago, those changes necessitated the year's second certification of the course. It had already been measured once, after construction at Lake Montebello diverted the course up and back Hillen Road, which makes for a nasty, rolling 21st mile.

"It's a monster of a hill," said Lee DiPietro, the Ruxton resident who was the women's runner-up in 2002 and '03. "I'll be glad when we get Lake Montebello back."

That's the plan for 2007. The half-marathoners have gripes about their first three miles, which separate them from the marathoners' way until the fields converge at the northeast corner of , with 10 miles to go for all.

Under Armour's three-year sponsorship ends tomorrow, but Plank and promoter Lee Corrigan are in negotiations that both said will keep the company's brand on the Festival.

Past WinnersOnly the distance, 26.2 miles, has remained constant during the brief run of the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon. It will follow its fifth course in as many years tomorrow.


2001: Luka Cherono, 2:19:46

2002: Erick Kimaiyo, 2:17:43

2003: Kimaiyo, 2:18:40

2004: John Itati, 2:14:51


2001: Elvira Kolpakova, 2:52:08

2002: Kolpakova, 2:50:00

2003: Kolpakova, 2:48:49

2004: Ramila Burangulova, 2:40:21

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