While he’s not on par with, say, local heroes Terry Bradshaw or Mario Lemieux, James Kirwa is becoming something of a legend in the Steel City. Yesterday, May 5, the Kenyan runner won the 2013 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, breaking the tape for the second year in a row with an unofficial time of 2:13:37.
It wasn’t a course record, but Kirwa did reach the Boulevard of the Allies—the finish line of the 26.2-mile course—slightly faster than he did last year, when he clocked in with 2:14:09.
"This year, I knew the course, so I was like, 'Okay, let me do it,'" Kirwa told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, explaining how he became the race’s first back-to-back winner since 2009, when the event returned after a brief hiatus.
Rounding out the top three were Kirwa’s fellow Kenyans Stephen Njoroge and Jonathan Kibet, who came in at 2:14:10 and 2:17:29, respectively.
On the women’s side, Nigerian-born Mary Akor, who lives in California and is an American citizen, claimed the victory in an unofficial time of 2:37:35. She collapsed after the finish, but she’d recovered by the time of the awards presentation.
“I put a surge on [leader] Hirut [Guangul] at 23 miles on the downhill and never let up,” Akor said, according to the Post-Gazette. "I was determined to run hard and die at the end if need be.”
Guangul, of Ethiopia, finished second with an unofficial time of 2:38:05, and right behind her was her compatriot Yihunilish Bekele Dele, who crossed at 2:41:30.
Following these leaders were the rest of the 22,700 participants—the most ever in the Pittsburgh Marathon, the AP reports. The race kicked off at 7:00 a.m., and—especially heartening given the safety concerns following last month’s Boston Marathon bombings—police and race officials declared the event a success.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg