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Marathon rookie takes the overall title

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What possesses a person to get up and run 26.2 miles?

Here's one man's answer: "It gets me out of the house."

"Everyone should have a reason to get out of the house," quipped Jerry Sombke of Freeborn, Minn., on a sunny Saturday topping out at 97 degrees at the 12th annual Marathon to Marathon.

Out of the 326 runners that got out of the house Saturday, Sombke is a bit of an exception.

He has run all 12 marathons here, and none of the runners present had blown out more birthday candles than he. Sombke and Eugene Defronzo (who said he's run over 370 marathons) of Cheshire, Conn., each 71, were the oldest athletes on hand.

"This is my favorite marathon," said Sombke, a retired high school physics and chemistry teacher who completed the course from Storm Lake High School to the Marathon Community Center in 4 hours, 48 minutes, 11 seconds, good enough for second place in the men's 70 and older division. "It's well organized and friendly."

It was Sombke's 91st marathon. He's been running since his college days but didn't start running road races until 1994. He has a "6-10" training regimen, tracking 48 miles a week by running six miles one day, 10 the next, for six days a week, taking Sunday off.

Jonathan Woehl, 21, of Ankeny, running his first ever marathon, was the overall winner in 3:03:35, for a 7-minute-mile pace.

"I didn't think I'd win. I just wanted to run around three hours," said Woehl, who runs track and cross country at Northwestern College in Orange City, where he'll graduate next spring. "I figured I'd be around the front of the pack. It was perfect weather. You really couldn't ask for better weather."

Woehl has run three half marathons, a 10K and a 20K so far this year in addition to Saturday's race.

"I did some marathon training before school was out. I was just going to give it a try," he said. "My strategy was to just try and run an even pace the whole time and I was pretty close."

On the women's side, 43-year-old Christine Fanslau of Underwood crossed the line first in 3:39:53. While she's run 22 marathons (including two in Marathon), she'd never finished better than second.

"I've only been running seven or eight years. Running is just something I enjoy," said Fanslau. "I don't pay a lot of attention to my time. I'm too old to worry about it.

"It was a little warm but I ran the Boston Marathon this year and it was a Nor'easter."

Nathan Wolf, 27, of Orange City took the half marathon title in 1:28:01, while Carrie Krohn, 34, of Orange City was the women's winner in 1:39:11.

Seventeen-year-old Marshall Wernimont of Sioux Central Sioux Rapids claimed the overall 5K title in 19:37. Aly Altenhoten of Spencer was the women's champ with a time of 21:10.

Ryan Edwardson, Josh Long, Mike Knipe, Matt Knipe and Doug Wedel, who comprised the team "Stallions," took the men's marathon relay title in 3:06:29.

On the women's side, the Beavers (Tracy Hartwig, Katie Ernst, Jacqulyn Schmidt, Lindsey Meyer, Lindsey Kruse) came in first in 3:43:27.

In the co-ed division, Steve Hamer of Alta, who ran the first leg of the winning relay (3:30:58), was asked to run the night before the race.

"It took me a little convincing; It was my first time ever, and such short notice," Hamer said. Thomas Hansen of Alta, Megan Christensen of New Jersey (originally from Storm Lake), Tina Zielinski of Chicago and Clark Fort of Storm Lake were the other members on the team dubbed No Brain No Gain.

"It was nice to have support from all the people (along the course)," said Hansen.

This was more than just a marathon for Thomas Skinner, 61, of Alpharetta, Ga., a Kansas native who set out to run a marathon in all 50 states.

This was No. 50.

"In the last 10 weeks I've run seven marathons," said Skinner, who ran 4:30:59 to win the men's 60 and over division. "Through mile 17 I was on pace to finish in 4 (hours), which was my goal. I ran too fast at the start for my condition."

Skinner will take a couple months off, then run 4-5 marathons a year. He also has designs on an ultra-marathon.

Skinner had praise for this particular race.

"My wife sees emptiness, but I see little vistas," he said. "The rolling hills (here) are better than a flat marathon."

Lois Lind, the marathon's communications director, said this year was stamped in part by late registration.

"We had a lot of them register Friday night and Saturday morning," she said. "Another thing was that for a good share of the run there was an overcast; that was good news for the runners and the volunteers."

This year featured more runners than last year in the full marathon, the half marathon and the 5K, but fewer relay teams.

Before Friday, the registration list was represented by 28 states and England, Lind said. Thirty-three is the most states ever represented and 26 is the fewest.



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