After a dozen tries, Nick Arciniaga has finally won a marathon, and in terms of prestige and paycheck, he picked a fine time for his debut victory.
Finishing in 2:13:12, Arciniaga edged Josphat Boit on Sunday, October 6, at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, capturing the USA Marathon Championship and earning $25,000.
Over the years, the 30-year-old California native had placed in the top 15 in Chicago, Boston, and New York City, but he arrived in the Twin Cities hoping the 13th marathon of his career would prove lucky.
The weather was certainly on his side—cool temperatures gave way to intermittent sunshine and light rain, the Star Tribune reports—but that was pretty much the only thing.
Eleven miles in, Arciniaga’s hamstring began to ache, and as Boit momentarily took the lead, his strategy of remaining calm for the first 13 miles nearly went out the window.
“I was trying to motivate myself,’’ Arciniaga said after the race, according to the Star Tribune, “to stay in it and fight.”
He did so by focusing on short-term goals, such as being the first runner to the 24-mile mark. At mile 25, he pulled ahead of the lead pack, setting up a showdown with Boit that would come in the final 400 meters.
“It was intense,” said the Kenyan-born Boit, who won an NCAA title at 10,000 meters while running for the University of Arkansas in 2006. “You didn’t know who was going to win. I was nervous at that point; I didn’t know what I had left, and my legs were feeling really tired. But I wanted it really bad.”
Arciniaga may have wanted it just a little bit more. Drawing strength from the crowd, he dug deep, blocked out the leg pain, and eked out a three-second victory. Rounding out the top three was Shadrack Biwott, who crossed in 2:13:25.
It was a less dramatic conclusion on the women’s side, as Annie Bersagel topped the field with a time of 2:30:52, finishing well ahead of Laura Portis (2:33:46) and Esther Erb (2:34:32), who took second and third.
Now based in Norway, Bersagel once lived and trained in Minneapolis, and she returned to the Twin Cities with high expectations.
“I felt confident that those of us who were in the top five, that we were all pretty evenly matched.” Bersagel said, according to Letsrun.com. “So I thought, ‘If it’s going to hurt, it’s going to hurt for all of us.’ It was a big risk, but I didn’t come here all the way from Oslo to try to run safe.”