Don't expect Lee DiPietro to be unhappy with her fifth-place finish in the Baltimore Marathon.
In both 2002 and 2003, the elite marathoner from Ruxton was second to Russia's Elvira Kolpakova. Yesterday, her time of 2 hours, 53 minutes, 4 seconds was nearly 12 1/2 minutes behind winner Ramilia Burangulova, another Russian. DiPietro wasn't even the first American woman, finishing seven seconds behind fourth-place Susan Graham-Gray of Greencastle, Pa.
"I was hoping to go under 2:50, but it was really windy, and that's tough for me," said DiPietro, who won $1,000. "I knew that was going to be a problem. I'm so tall [nearly 6 feet] that it's hard to find people to work with, that I can run behind."
DiPietro started the race running with Burangulova, eventual second-place finisher Victoria Zueva, also of Russia, and Poland's Wioletta Kryza, who finished third.
After the Russians and Kryza took off, DiPietro found herself running with Graham-Gray for the next five or six miles before falling back.
"I almost caught her at the end," DiPietro said. "I was reeling her back in."
Realistically, DiPietro said, she can't win a marathon like this against elite runners.
"I had a chance the last two years," she said. "I think the increase in prize money is going to bring in a lot faster people. I'm 46 years old. I'm realistic. If I can finish in the top five in a big race like this, that's a thrill for me. I can still run close to 2:50, still keep it under 3 hours. Hang in there with the big guns for a little while.
"It's fun to do a hometown race. There were so many out there who were screaming my name. That just helps me so much, to have that encouragement, and I was happy that I could feel that I was running strong even though I was battling the wind."
Scott Herrick, who grew up in Eldersburg and Mount Airy, was the first Marylander to cross the finish line. Herrick, 22 years old and running in his first marathon, was 11th overall in 2:36:11.
Herrick said he was surprised at how well he finished.
"I've run some good half-marathons," said Herrick, who graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine last spring and recently moved to New York. "I knew about what I could run, but this is definitely a lot better than I thought."
Herrick led a parade of eight straight Marylanders to finish, including Baltimore's David Chalmers (12th in 2:37:08), Columbia's Mark Gilmore (14th, 2:38:34), Timonium's Mike Woodman (15th, 2:41:40), Aberdeen's Bret Mower (17th, 2:42:27) and Laurel's Jason Grimm (18th, 2:44:49).
Half-marathon photo finish
After more than 13 miles, the half-marathon turned into a full-out sprint to the finish between two Moroccans, Haji Abdrrahim and El Arbi Khattabi, and Kenya's Samuel Ndereba.
Abdrrahim had the best kick, edging Ndereba by two seconds while finishing in 1:03:45. Khattabi was six seconds behind Ndereba.
"I just tried to get to the finish line," said Abdrrahim, 26, who had Khattabi translate for him. "The most important thing for me is to win. It doesn't matter by how much."
Abdrrahim won $2,000 for first, while Ndereba won $1,000 and Khattabi, who finished 10th in last year's New York City Marathon, got $500.
Russia's Silvia Skvortsova won the women's half-marathon in 1:15:30. She beat Kenya's Teresa Wanjiku, who ran 1:16:32, and Marybeth Ellis of Denver, who finished in 1:17:58.
Same for 5K
The finish of the 5K race was just as exciting, with Francis Kirwa running 14:33 to beat fellow Kenyan Julius Kiptoo by one second.
Andre Gordeyev of Belarus was in the photo, too, finishing in 14:37.
The women's 5K was won by Elana Orlova of Frederick in 16:21. Romanian Denisa Costescu was second in 16:54, and Russian Larisa Michailova was third in 17:09.
Michael King of Alglen, Pa., won the crank division of the wheelchair marathon in 1:49:51. King uses a chair that is powered by hand pedals similar to a bike's pedals.
Herado Maldonado of Macungie, Pa., who competes by directly pushing the wheels of his chair, won that division in 2:21:58.
Under Armour's contingent
Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports apparel company had about 120 of its approximately 460 employees running in one of the day's events.
That includes founder and CEO Kevin Plank, who ran the half-marathon in "right around 1:52," he said.
"I had set a goal of 1:45, and I thought I could do it in 1:50," Plank said. "I don't know what happened. I hit the half-marathon wall."
It was the second half-marathon for Plank, who also competed in the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco in June.
Plank said it's no surprise that so many of his employees participated yesterday.
"We get maybe 500 resumes a week," he said. "One of the best quotes is anybody who has ever thrown a ball or swung a bat wants to work at Under Armour.
"The people who come to us typically are that competitive, they've got an athletic background. It's part of our culture, as well."
In 2003, Corrigan Sports Enterprises wrote checks totaling about $80,000 to Baltimore charities as part of the deal the company has with the city to run the event, according to Lee Corrigan, principal of the company.
This year, with race entries up by 20 percent, he thinks it may be more, but he won't be sure until all the accounting is done.
"We've got a lot of mathematics to do and a lot of bills to pay," he said.
Corrigan's deal calls for him to pay all the event's expenses, including police, trash pickup, prize money, even his company's $85,000 management fee. After everyone is paid, any profit left is split evenly by Corrigan Sports Enterprises and city-designated charities, including Healthcare for the Homeless, Baltimore Reads and Kids on the Hill.
Corrigan estimated that $1.5 million had been raised for charities in the event's previous three years.
Keeping her focus
Graham-Gray, who is legally blind, finished fourth in the women's division of the marathon.
Graham-Gray, a 36-year-old who suffers from a degenerative eye disorder, has lost her ability to drive and her ability to work, but not her ability to run.
She finished in 2:52:57 in her sixth marathon.
"We've gone through this before. My previous best had been 2:55:03 in Hartford in 2002. I've run with [fourth-place finisher] Lee [DiPietro] before in Parkersburg, W.Va., in August. And once again she and I gutted it out. I have a lot of respect for her."
Sun staff writer Michael Reeb contributed to this article.