It ain’t easy being king.
Brendan Lunty may have won his record-setting fifth-straight Woody’s Marathon on Sunday, but it is getting more and more difficult to stay on top.
The biggest challenger to the Camrose runner’s crown came from Red Deer’s Craig Schmitt (two hours, 45 minutes and 8.3 seconds) who cut four minutes off of his own personal best to finish just over two minutes behind Lunty (2:42:51.45).
But Lunty is not quite cut throat about it.
“It’s not a ‘I come here to win’ type thing, I had a great run and Craig had a great run and had he beat me … it’s just about coming out and enjoying and being part of this,” said Lunty, 36.
Schmitt knew he was close to the reigning champion, but knows it’s going to take a special kind of effort to put a new man in the gold medal position.
“We need someone from Red Deer to win this one year, but Brendan from Camrose has come first the last few years and he pushed me today, pushed me way out of my comfort zone,” said Schmitt. “But it’s fun to race and he’s amazing. It was a tough day but fun.”
In all, there were five men who broke the three-hour mark, including Jonathan Fuller (2:53:25.45), Ian Blockland (2:56:22.15) and Red Deer’s Brian McArthur (2:56:26.85).
The women’s race went to newcomer Rhonda Loo from Lake Newell Resort, near Brooks in a time of 3:06:26.45.
Red Deer’s Dusty Spiller set a new record to win the half marathon at 1:12.32, three weeks after winning the Edmonton Police Foundation Half Marathon at 1:13.38. Vancouver’s Jen Moroz, meanwhile won the woman’s half in 1:22:42.65.
Kieran McDonald of Red Deer was the fastest man in the 10K at 33:31.80 while Emily Lucas of Innisfail was the fastest woman at 40:21.40.
The newest addition to the slate of races was the marathon relay, which was won by the brother team of Courtney and Nathan Doerksen in a time of 2:45:23.90.
Loo, 39, edged out last year’s champ Adela Salt from Calgary for the women’s title, but it was her time that really surprised her.
“It’s always emotional,” said Loo, who is preparing for the Blackfoot Ultra Marathon on May 30. “I’m actually really surprised, because I’ve had some longer runs in the last few weeks. My best time is three hours, my worst time is 3:18, so I thought if I could pull off a 3:20 I’d be happy with that, so 3:06 is sweet.”
This was the first time she has run the course and she was impressed with what the mother of two saw.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “It’s picturesque, it’s quiet, there’s not a lot of traffic and a lot of people were out, which I was surprised to see, a lot of spectators, and the volunteers were amazing. I would run this again, and I don’t say that about every race I run.”
For Lunty this race is a must-run, something he has now done for the last 11 years. He is drawn to Red Deer by the course’s beauty and the atmosphere of the race.
“This was the first one I ever did, I just love the runners here, the Red Deer running group is fantastic … and the trails here are great, you can tell the community likes it,” he said.
Lunty plans to do five marathons this year, including Saskatoon in two weeks.
For Schmitt, the family ambiance cultivated by the organizers makes this an important race for him to run. This year marked the first kids race for the marathon — a 1.2 kilometre event — in which all four of his kids competed, and his wife ran the 10K.
“Last night my oldest boy woke up and said ‘Dad I can’t sleep, I’m too excited about the race,’” said Schmitt. “They’ve been training for this and it’s pretty cute but we get involved with their running a lot, we bike with them a lot. It’s a local event that gets families out. If we didn’t have this, there wouldn’t be as much motivation for people to do it.”
Next up for Schmitt is the Iron Man in Coeur d’Alene, Id.
With rain all day Saturday, there was concern over how the course would hold up, but it performed beautifully, with really only one sketchy section by River Bend where it got muddy. Beyond that, conditions were perfect.
“It was a runner’s paradise this morning,” said Loo. “It’s OK to be cool, because once you get going you heat up real quick and with that sun on your back in a lot of spots, I was wishing I didn’t wear a three-quarter shirt in a lot of spots but a tank top maybe.”