Two-time defending champion Andrzej Krzyscin of Poland, who came back this year to "rabbit" for the elite field at Sunday’s Motorola Marathon, hinted prior to the race, that he might go the distance if he felt good. Apparently the 36-year old school teacher from Poland felt pretty good, because he made 2004 a three-peat with a 2:14:17 victory.
Although Krzyscin’s time was well off the course record of 2:11:14, (Mohamed Nazipov, 2001) the women’s record did fall. Kyrghizstan’s Tatiana Borisova, making her marathon debut, set a new women’s record of 2:30:39, slicing over a minute off of Marion Sutton’s 2002 mark.
Krzyscin, known for his precision tempo, was contracted to pace the lead runners through the 25K mark, and did a remarkable job of it, taking a lead pack of seven or eight runners through the first mile in 5:00 minutes flat. Pre-race favorite Sreten Ninkovic of Serbia was in the pack, but soon fell off the pace, eventually dropping out of the race all together.
As Krzyscin’s steady pacing took the pack through mile two in 9:55, three in 15:00, and four miles in19:58, the pack began to re-shape. By the 10K mark, passed in 30:56, Krzyscin led Ukrainian Mykola Antonenko, Kenyan Jared Segura, Poland’s Marek Jaroszewski, and Mindaugas Pukstas, an SMU runner originally from Lithuania.
By 10 miles (49:53), with Krzyscin still in front, Antonenko had asserted himself as a contender, while Segura and Pukstas stayed close, a few strides back.
The pack passed through the half-way mark, just past the University of Texas’ Memorial Stadium, in 1:05:30-Krzyscin’s pacing was dead on to the second.
As the runners headed up the long stretch of 6th Street onto Lake Austin Boulevard, a strange thing happened. Krzyscin, who was expected to drop out at 25K, kept on running-transforming from rabbit into the real race leader.
But the marathon is a long race, filled with bluffs and feints, surges and fades; by the second half, it’s the true survivors left up front.
By the turn-around at mile 17 on Lake Austin Boulevard, Segura was gone, and Antonenko began to share the lead with Krzyscin, while Pukstas trailed in third, about 350 meters back.
The race became a duel, with Antonenko and Krzyscin taking turns drafting as they passed Austin High School and hit mile 19 in 1:35:52. But by mile 20, it appeared that Krzyscin had relaxed his grip.
Antonenko, running for the first time in the United States, threw a backward glance to check his position, and began to pull ahead. Across I-35 and into the east side of Austin, Antonenko pressed his lead, opening up an 11 second gap on Krzyscin, and looking very much like the next Motorola Marathon winner.
But the Pole had one advantage: he’s run the course three times, won it twice, and he knew exactly where to make his move.
Running on Pleasant Valley Road on the downhill side of the Longhorn dam, Krzyscin’s pace quickened. Again, coming up a small hill on Lakeshore Drive, between miles 23 and 24, Krzyscin picked it up, narrowing the gap to a few seconds. "I heard someone say ‘Andrzej, you can do it,’" he said later. "So I decided to do it."
In a classic marathon moment, reminiscent of the duel with Jimmy Hearld last year, Krzyscin wrested the lead from Antonenko at the 24-mile mark, with 2:02:20 on the clock.
"I knew the exact spot, what it looks like- it’s where I lost the race in 2001, with two miles to go," said Krzyscin.
Steadily pulling ahead, Krzyscin, once again Motorola’s leader, made a strong move, powering down Riverside Drive to the finish, 26 seconds ahead of Antonenko.
For Krzyscin, it was a $10,000-plus payday- $10,000 for his win, in addition to an undisclosed fee he received for rabbitting.
"The whole time, I was worried that I would not run the whole race, but it’s very difficult for me to drop out. After 25K, I still felt very good," he said.
"I may have hurt my body some, but I’ll worry about that tomorrow," said Krzyscin, who will be running in the Polish Olympic Trials in April 5. "I’ll take a week off, and then begin my special marathon training in Albuquerque, New Mexico."
Pukstas nearly caught Antonenko, taking third in 2:14: 59, while Russian Dzmitry Sivou grabbed fourth in 2:18:40. Jaroszewski, who won the HP Houston Marathon barely a month ago, took fifth in 2:19:08
Local ace Gilbert Tuhabonye was the first Austin finisher, taking eighth place in 2:22:37, almost four minutes better than his last year’s time.
In the masters’ division, Dallas’ William Moore beat 1999 Motorola champ Peter Fleming, 2:24:45 to 2:28:49.
Can a 1,500 meter runner win a marathon on her first try? You bet, as Tatiana Borisova proved, especially one with a 4:11 1,500 meter best.The tall (5′ 9") runner from Kyrghizstan ran a beautifully paced race, coming from behind at around the 21 mile mark to catch pre-race favorite Ramila Burangulova. Using her 1,500 meter speed to throw in a 5:36 mile, she powered ahead of Burangulova and Alena Vinitskaya of Belarus. Meanwhile, Liza Hunter-Galvan, who was en route to the race of her life, stayed right on the heels of Vinitskaya.
Borisova never looked back after her move, and broke the tape in 2:30:39. Burangulova settled for second in 2:32:43, while Vinitskaya took third (2:34:02), just as she did last year.
Hunter-Galvan set a personal best by over four minutes with a dazzling 2:36:18. The tie would automatically give her an "A" qualifier for the Olympics, but Hunter-Galvan happens to be a New Zealand native. Under New Zealand’s Olympic rules, it’s the top three times leading up to the games that get the team spots. Still, it looks pretty good, as Hunter-Galvan is the leading Kiwi woman marathoner so far this year.
Motorola’s point-to-point downhill course is especially great for wheelchair athletes. Michel Bond of Weatherford, Texas enjoyed the course en route to a 1:28:37 victory over Austin’s Ron Hollis, in 1:39:24. Three-time champ Ramiro Bermudez (’94, ’99 and 2001) took third in 1:56:53.
Approximately 6,500 runners enjoyed a lucky break for the 13th annual running of this event, as Austin’s freak snowstorm early Saturday morning gave way to ideal conditions on Sunday: cold, crisp and clear, with little wind and temperatures ranging from the 30s to the 50s by races’ end.