Three men from Kenya glided through the rain to dominate Anchorage's oldest and most popular marathon Saturday, a band of brothers who turned the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon into a family reunion.
David Kiplagat, the middle brother, claimed the victory to become the second three-time winner in the 41-year history of the race. He edged his younger brother, Paul Rottich,by two seconds and his older brother, Solomon Kandie, by 13 seconds.
"Hopefully, next time it will be five," said a grinning Kiplagat, referring to two more brothers who are elite runners and who might make it to next year's marathon.
Kiplagat, the first of many talented Kenyans who have come to Anchorage to compete for UAA, won for the second straight year and the third time in four years. He finished the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 10 seconds.
"It was cold," he said. "The feet are cold."
The marathon began in pounding rain early Saturday at Bartlett High. Kiplagat & Bros. reached the finish line at the west end of the Delaney Park Strip with stripes of mud on their arms and legs, although by then there was just a trace of rain.
Davya Flaharty ignored the soggy conditions to grab the women's victory with a marathon milestone -- she broke the three-hour barrier with a time of 2:59:50.
"I'm over the hump," Flaharty, 29, said after reaching her long-sought-after goal.
In the half-marathon, which punished runners with a stiff wind at Point Woronzof, titles went to Anchorage runners Anna Dalton (1:26:14) and Allan Spangler (1:15:15). Four-mile victories went to Hallidie Wilt of Anchorage (22:32) and Jerry Perkins of Dallas (21:22).
And in the non-Kenyan division of the men's marathon, 55-year-old Jeff Young of Anchorage was the winner -- he ran 2:48:06 to take fourth place in his marathon debut.
Kiplagat is one of 11 siblings who grew up in Kapsabet, Kenya, eight of them boys and many of them gifted runners. One, Evance Kipchumba, has raced for Kenya at the world cross-country championships, which is a bit like playing center field for the New York Yankees.
Though Kiplagat and Rottich both ran for UAA, none of the brothers live in Anchorage anymore. Kiplagat, 30, is a specialist in the U.S. Army, stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Kandie, 36, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rottich, 28, lives in Beaverton, Oregon.
The marathon marked the first time they have run in the same race, Kandie said.
"It's a big reunion," he said. "Fun. Exciting. The last time I saw Paul was four or five years ago."
As competitive as they were during the race, they were all smiles afterward. The winner didn't gloat and the guys he beat didn't brood or make excuses. Talking trash is not part of the family tradition.
"We just try to make it fun," Kandie said. "We come from a very big family, a simple family.
"There is brotherhood. We say, 'You can do it.' ''
The brothers have different last names, Kandie said, because each has two surnames but dropped one to make things simpler. They have one surname in common -- Rotich -- although Paul goes by Rottich because of a misspelling when he filled out his initial paperwork at UAA a few years ago.
The three ran side by side, or close to it, for the first several miles. Around Mile 8, Kandie, a former Division I All-American at Tulane University, dropped off the pace when his Achilles tendon tightened. That left Kiplagat and Rottich, who was running his first marathon
"I was trying to use Paul to set the pace," Kiplagat said.
Rottich said he knew his brother was going to make a move sometime near the end of the race. When he did, Rottich had no response.
"He made a surge and I couldn't go," Rottich said.
The mommy track
Davya Flaharty spent the morning clock-watching. She has been trying to break the three-hour barrier for a couple of years now, and she had to hustle to make it happen Saturday.
"Crossing Tudor Road, I knew I was 1:15 off the pace," she said.
That told her she needed to find more speed -- to break three hours, she needed to run 10 seconds faster per mile for the final seven miles than she did for the first 19 miles.
"The last two miles I hardly looked at my watch," she said. "I just went as hard as a I could."
Flaharty was more than five minutes faster than runner-up Kirsten Kolb (3:05:45).
A former skier and runner for UAA, Flaharty's previous best was the 3:04 she recorded in her 2011 victory in the Moose's Tooth Marathon. She calls that race her "3:04 heartbreak" -- she was on pace to break three hours in until the final two miles.
On Saturday, she took more feeds during the race -- she wore a fuel belt packed with Goo mixed with water -- and she said that made a difference.
So did running solo. Flaharty, the daughter of Alaska endurance legend Bob Baker, is a stay-at-home mom whose training partner is her 15-month-old daughter, Eevy.
"It feels a little faster because I'm not pushing a stroller," Flaharty said.
'Don't freak out'
The vital statistics on Anchorage construction worker Jeff Young: 5-foot-9, 138 pounds, 55 years old. He turns 55 ½ years old Sunday -- "You've gotta give me that half," he said.
He is defying his age in a big way this summer. He set a personal best with his second-place finish in last month's Trent-Waldron Half-Marathon, taking nearly three minutes off his previous fastest 13.1-mile time, which he set five or six years ago.
And he made his first marathon look easy, averaging a 6:22-per-mile pace and logging consistent per-mile splits until the final mile or two.
"I kept clicking along," Young said. "I'm at Mile 15 (thinking), 'At any minute am I gonna be on the side of the trail in the fetal position?' After the high point, Stuckagain Heights, it's all downhill to the finish, and the Trent does that part of the course, so I know it well. Once I got into there I just said, 'Stay relaxed, keep breathing, don't freak out.' ''
Young said he has resisted running marathons because he's not willing to take on the extra training. "There's only so much time in our summers up here, and there's fishing (and) hunting," he said.
But Jerry Ross, who along with Todd List coaches Young, came up with a marathon training plan and Young agreed to give it a try. He finished feeling good, but knowing he will pay for his efforts it soon enough.
"I might go rent a wheelchair," Young said. "It's gonna be a four-week recovery."
Anna Dalton and Allan Spangler used the half-marathon as preparation for longer races this year. Dalton is training for the Chicago Marathon this fall, and Spangler is training for next month's Crow Passing Crossing, a marathon-length wilderness run.
Both overcame fierce winds to secure their victories.
"It definitely slowed things down a lot," Spangler said. "I knew there'd be a really strong headwind around Point Woronzof. I was in a pack of about four and so I stayed with the pack and we all took turns leading.
"Once we were back in the woods, I just took off."
Spangler said he was running 5:35 miles without the wind and 6:20 miles with it. Dalton said she was running 6:15s without the wind and 6:45s with it.
"It was windy behind the airport. You just had to put your head down," she said. "I run back there a lot in the winter, but that's the windiest I've ever seen it."
• The Mayor's Marathon is one of the few races in Alaska that offers prize money. The marathon pays $1,000, $500 and $250 to the top three men and women and the half-marathon pays $300, $200 and $100.
A marathon record is worth $5,000, but no one came close to claiming that. Still standing are Michael Wisniewski's 2009 record of 2:22:29 -- Kiplagat missed that mark by less than one minute a year ago -- and Chris Clark's 2002 record of 2:38:19 -- a stunning time that may never be challenged.
• Kiplagat's victory made him the second three-time men's champion. Larry Seethaler is the other three-time winner (1978, 1980, 1986). Seven men have won two titles -- Bob Murphy (1979, '81), Shawn Delaney (1984, 1992), Gordon Pospisil (1989, 1993), Rich Hanna (2001, 2006), Will Kimball (2004-05) and Jerry Ross (2007-08).
Gerri Litzenberger has earned seven women's victories, the last in 1992. Clark, a 2000 Olympic marathoner, has won four.
• A field of about 4,300 competed in the race, which is organized by UAA and the city.
Reach Beth Bragg at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG