Sunday morning, Arizona’s normal weather disappeared, and a taste of a Midwest winter made its appearance — almost too much so for Ethiopia’s Terefae Yae in Sunday’s P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon.
Yae shook off the cold and fellow countryman Fikadu Degefu to win the fourth annual marathon in a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, 13 seconds, a minute slower than he ran last year when he finished second.
“It was hard to run because of the cold,” Yae, who won the 2005 event, said as he wrapped himself in blankets at the finish line. “It was cold the whole way. Ten degrees warmer. I think I could have run much faster.”
The cold was the talk of the day, even as Ethiopia’s Adenech Zekiros won by running the event’s second-fastest women’s marathon time ever, 2:31.43. She beat another Ethiopian runner, Salomie Getnet, by nearly four minutes.
The National Weather Service reported that at start time in downtown Phoenix, it was 29 degrees at nearby Sky Harbor International Airport. The temperature did not go above freezing until 9:30 a.m.
According to a National Weather Service release, that made it the coldest morning in the area in 16 years.
Ahwatukee Foothills’ Susan Loken, who finished fifth in the women’s event in 2:47.09 (nearly six minutes slower than last year) and was the first American across the finish line, said that the cold caught her a bit by surprise.
“I had to tell my legs to turn over, they were so frozen,” said the 42-year-old mother of three. “I have lived here a while, and maybe I’m used to it being a bit warmer.
“I admit, maybe I’ve turned into a wimp lately,” said Loken, who is aiming at a shot at the 2008 Olympics.
Illness, not cold, took down last year’s women’s champion, Shitaye Gemechu of Ethiopia.
Gemechu had been fighting a stomach illness since Friday, said Mike Long, elite athlete coordinator for the marathon. She ran fairly well for half the marathon before finally having to be ushered over to a support vehicle and eventually transported by ambulance to Scottsdale Osborn Hospital.
The women’s winner had to overcome a bit of illness herself in order to finish.
Zekiros said through an interpreter that she had to stop for a few seconds but was able to regain enough of her strength to finish.
Although the overall numbers were great, Long was disappointed that the race did not produce a course record.
“It’s back to the drawing board for us,” Long said. “I thought, despite the temperatures, that a fast race was possible.”
Former American Olympic champion Frank Shorter said that tactics, not cold, played a part in the slower times in the men’s race.
“They went out fast enough to break the record, but then they all started looking at each other,” Shorter said. “When it goes to a tactical race, everything changes. Cold is a psychological hurdle (for distance runners), and if the race itself heats up enough, you can still see a fast time.”
In the half-marathon, Flagstaff’s Morten Bostrom ran a 1:06.33, the second-fastest finish in the four-year history of the event, to win the men’s event. Liz Wilson of Eugene, Ore., won the women’s race in 1:18.37.
Scottsdale Horizon’s Jim Walmsley, runner-up at the 2006 5A Division I state cross country meet, was the first high school runner to cross the finish line in the men’s half-marathon. He placed 11th in 1:12.33. John Yatsko, the Tempe McClintock senior who won the 4A Division I state cross country title, was just three spots back of Walmsley with a time of 1:14:21.