There were times during Saturday's 10th annual Under Armour Baltimore Marathon when the race appeared to be a two-man bolt to the finish. Kenya's Julius Keter and Ethiopia's Alene Reta weaved through Baltimore side-by-side for more than half of the race, but David Rutoh kept his pace a few blocks behind, waiting to make his burst.
Rutoh fought through suddenly windy conditions during the 22nd mile and surged into first place, running uncontested through the finish line at M&T Bank Stadium amid raucous cheering from the largest crowd in the event's history.
Rutoh, a 24-year-old from Kenya, recorded the second-fastest time in event history when he crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 13 minutes, 11 seconds in his second marathon in the United States.
"I tried to push," Rutoh said. "I am coming from the pack and only two guys were running forward and we overtook them. It was only the wind that affected me, because I train in hilly areas so I am used to mountains. It was the wind affecting me."
Olena Shurkhno of Ukraine won the women's marathon with a time of 2:32:17, finishing eight seconds shy of the women's event record set last year by Iuliia Arkhipova, who placed second. Both Rutoh and Shurkhno received $23,000 for finishing first.
"We were hoping for a record today, but I think the wind probably held them back. It's great having a competitive race," said Lee Corrigan, whose Corrigan Sports Enterprises has organized and planned the event since its inception. "It makes for exciting television, of course and I think the crowd got what they wanted, so to speak."
Colombian runner Juan Cardona finished in second place with a time of 2:13:29 and Kennedy Kemei of Kenya finished third in 2:13:49.
Keter, 21, quickly separated himself from the pack at the beginning of the race, running alone for the first six miles. Reta, 28, closed the gap at mile 7, and by the time the two runners approached the mile 9 marker at the Inner Harbor they were neck-and-neck.
Keter and Reta ran side-by-side with each other at the midpoint marker on Pratt Street, and remained close as they tracked through Canton. But Reta surged past Keter during the 18th mile, bursting toward Clifton Park as Keter lost steam and bowed out of the race as they approached Lake Montebello and Mile 20.
Keter set the event record in 2008 when he finished in 2:11:56, but has not finished either of the past two Baltimore Marathons.
Reta assumed the commanding lead, but turned in one of his slowest miles of the morning as he chugged around Lake Montebello in 7:05. With the race nearing the homestretch Rutoh made a burst for the lead and overtook Reta by Mile 23.
Shurkhno, 33, and Arkhipova, 26, nearly mirrored the men's race as both runners ran close to each other at the 23rd mile. Shurkhno struggled to keep her pace in windy conditions, but Arkhipova made an unsuccessful final effort to pull ahead.
"I wanted faster [time], but the wind [made it difficult],"Shurkhno said.
Nan Kennard of Westminster, Colo., finished third in the women's event and her time of 2:35:49 qualified her for the 2012 Olympic Time Trials in the marathon. Oregon native Max King and Virginia native John Crews also qualified for the time trials with sixth and ninth place finishes of 2:15:34 and 2:16:46, respectively.
"I really love running and this is just a passion of mine," Kennard said. "It was everything I could have hoped for today."
A year after a 23-year-old runner died during the race, a spokesman for the event reported no deaths but said a number of people were transported to Union Memorial Hospital for various reasons.
Cockeysville's Sean Sharpe won the men's half-marathon in 1:14:51, and Mary Kelly of Broomall, Pa., took the women's side in 1:27:03. Matt Straughm of Glendale won the men's 5K with a time of 15:46, and Nottingham's Cara Wettlaufer won the women's event in 19:32.
Bullseye Running won the Open Male 4-person Relay Team Competition in 2:29:31.