For the 13th race in a row Faber set a personal best at the distance running 2:32:37 to win by over a minute and a half despite only taking the lead with nearly two miles to go. Kipyego, after having to drop out of last year's race because of stomach problems, had to drive from his training grounds in northern Mexico to San Antonio to catch a flight to the Twin Cities for the race. He made it on Friday and Sunday decimated the field with a surge on the last of three hills on East Mississippi River Parkway between miles 21 and 22 to finish in 2:14:53.
Kipyego, who said it took him awhile to thaw out in the cold weather, had been monitoring his competitors for much of the race, watching for signs of strain, weakness. He saw that going up hills the others were struggling, so he decided to make his move before the course turned onto Cretin and then onto Summit Avenue in front of St. Thomas. Once he made the break, Kipyego kept up his tempo until mile 24 when he was confident he had the race won and he eased into the finish.
It was almost costly as this year's Grandma's champion, Berhanu Girma of Ethiopia, pressed by Sean Quigley of Colorado, who was running only his second marathon, put on a late race surge to finish in 2:15:04 and 2:15:06, respectively, to take second and third places. That nine seconds cost Girma a $10,000 bonus that goes to the man or woman who wins both Grandma's and the TCM in the same calendar year. Kipyego missed that bonus last year because he traveled directly from Kenya to the Twin Cites and his stomach failed to adjust to the food. He had to drop out after 20 miles of last year's TCM after winning Grandma's earlier in the year.
Everything went right for Faber this year as she came into the race attempting to improve on her 2:36:50 PR at the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston in January where she placed 21st. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Faber had moved to the East Coast and joined the Boston Athletic Association team where she was coached by Terry Shea. When she moved back to Portland, she didn't want to sever ties with the BAA or Shea. That seems to have been a wise choice.
Shea had her prepped to run in the 2:32s and told her in their last phone conversation prior to the race: "If you find yourself in the lead at mile 22, don't freak out." . Faber brushed off the comment, thinking, at best she would place between third and fifth, and she went into the race not focused not on place, but on time. She hit her splits and in the second half of the race kept passing the other top women. She didn't "freak out." When she finally passed the then leader Melissa Johnson-White near 24 miles, she thought "Melissa will just come along with me."
It didn't happen, White was struggling, and was passed at the finish line by Ethiopian Hirut Guangul, one of the five African women she had caught and left behind when she started to push the pace at mile 18 and broke open what had been a slow, tactical event. Guangul finished in 2:34:03 and White 2:34:04. Both White and Faber have had trouble finishing strong in the marathon, but on Sunday only White continued to struggle.
Faber gave her coach the credit for preparing her to break through the second half of the race. She started conservatively and just kept clicking off miles on pace for her 2:32 time goal that she shared with White, unbenounced to either or them, both had entered the race hoping to run that time. Despite her new found strength, Faber did not believe she had the race won until she began descending the long downhill from the steps of the St. Paul Cathedral to the Capitol grounds.
"The crowd was amazing," she said, and when she thrust up a fist in triumph, "they went crazy."
For Kipyego it could be said his success comes from his family tree. Christopher is the older brother of Michael Kipyego, who finished 13th in today's Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2:10:02. Their younger sister is Sally Kipyego, who won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters at this year's London Olympics. Christopher was inspired to run Grandma's by their two-time champion, Wesly Ngetich, who was tragically killed in the tribal violence after the Kenyan presidential elections in 2008.
"I love it here," he said, and though he's 38, he hopes to return to Grandma's and Twin Cities next year and continue his success in the state.
The marathon was also the US championship for Masters. Ulrich Steidl won the men's competition in 2:20:59. Nuta Olaru the women's in 2:36:57. Kevin Castille made it halfway in 1:09:37, but did not finish.