For the last 15 kms, Craig Schmitt was running scared.
The Red Deer native had spent the past year lamenting another second place finish at the Woody’s Marathon, nine minutes off of six-time winner Brendan Lunty, of Camrose.
It’s what drove him Sunday in the 2017 edition of the 42.2 km race.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Schmitt, 38. “I’ve finished second place to Brendan five years in a row. It was a great race.
“We were stride for stride at 27 kms, I made a commitment a two hard kilometre commitment and I gapped him. The last 15 kms I ran scared.”
Last year, the two finished nine minute apart. Lunty came in first with a time of 2:39:35.72 while Schmitt came across the finish line almost 10 minutes later with a time of 2:49:14.17.
“I ran scared and I was able to hang on. I said last year. I wanted a Red Deer guy to win this, it’s been a long time. Of course I wanted it to be this Red Deer guy,” he said referring to himself.
As he crossed the finish line he celebrated by pumping both of his fists.
“I finally did it, it feels great. Since this race last year, I don’t think I’ve made it through breakfast without thinking about this race,” he said.
“I think I’ve wanted it more than anybody else here and this one meant a lot to me. To finally get this one was great.”
Schmitt finished with a time of 2:44:37.77, Lunty was nine minutes slower at 2:53:56.14. Schmitt managed to shave almost five minutes off of his 2016 time while Lunty was 14 minutes slower.
In 2015, Schmitt was a little more than two minutes behind Lunty. In 2014, Lunty beat Schmitt by just under five minutes. Schmitt came close in 2013, losing by 1 minute, four seconds to Lunty
Nicholas Graves, of Calgary, was the third male marathoner across the finish line Sunday morning. He had a time of 2:58:13.98.
Dusty Spiller, of Duncan, B.C., finished first in the male half marathon with a time of 1:17:24.66. Brett McPhedran came in second, as was the first Red Deer runner across the line, with a time 1:20:11.54.
Kieran McDonald, of Red Deer, placed first in the 10 km with a time of 36:05.55.