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Marathon continues to grow
Chuck Engle knows a thing or two about marathons.
In fact, the 33-year-old miler from Clinton, Miss., could be considered an expert.
Last year Engle ran an astounding 29 marathons throughout the United States. Out of all his races, however, he found only two worth returning to in 2004.
Second on his list was the famed Boston Marathon, but atop his list was the Whidbey Island Marathon.
I picked Boston because you have to and Whidbey because it is just beautiful, Engle said. I did 29 last year and this was by far my favorite.
Apparently Engle, the returning Whidbey full-marathon champion, wasnt the only runner drawn to the scenic course.
Nearly 1,000 men and women hit the roads between Oak Harbor and Coupeville on Saturday morning, providing the largest turnout in the three year history of the event.
Athletes from all over the world made their way to Whidbey Island, ranging from Canada to as far away as Japan.
Although a large group came from afar, there was certainly a strong local contingent and they represented the island well.
Clintons Marti Riemer-Reiss was the only local finisher to finish in first place.
The 35-year-old from the south end ran a well-paced race to claim the womens title in the half-marathon.
I just held myself back for the first 10 miles and then kicked it in for the last three, she said.
The victory was extremely rewarding to Riemer-Reiss, who came in second during the inaugural race in 2002 and missed last year because of an ankle surgery.
This time it was just really painless, I was coasting, she said. Last time I just went out too strong and didnt know about the hills.
Keri Fezzey of Coupeville came in just over four minutes behind Riemer-Reiss at 1:31.17.
Shaun Endsley of Cour dAlene, Idaho took first in the mens half marathon at 1:19.46. The highest local finisher in the mens half marathon was Willie Mendoza, who placed 30th at 1:35.24.
The womens marathon was won by Tina-Louise Harris of Port Coquilam, B.C. Sharon Jensen from Oak Harbor, the only local woman full marathon runner placed ninth, with a 3:50.11. Her husband, Eric Jensen, had the best local mens finish in the marathon, coming in seventh place at 3:22.13.
For the second year in a row the mens full marathon belonged to Engle, who came across the line at 2:49:30. He beat last years time by over three minutes.
Ive been doing a little bit more cross training...I spent some time on a cycle doing hill workouts and I think it really paid off, he said.
As far as returning to Whidbey for a repeat in 2005, there was no hesitation from Engle.
Yeah, Im coming back, he said. Win, lose or drawto come back and see this place is just awesome.
Next years Whidbey Island Marathon should continue to increase in numbers as it will be associated with the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.