12/04/2011, 4:24pm PST

Big group of Olympic Trials qualifiers, marriage proposal highlight 29th annual marathon from Folsom to state Capitol

Dec. 4, 2011
For immediate release

Kenya’s Erick Monyenye and Ethiopia’s Serkalem Biset Abrha earned individual titles, 33 runners qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials and a finish-line marriage proposal produced an emphatic ‘yes’ Sunday on an uplifting day at the California International Marathon.

Running in near-perfect marathon conditions that included temperatures in the 30s and 40s, clear skies and virtually no wind, Monyenye and Biset Abrha delivered bold moves at different times to take home the $10,000 winner’s checks in the 29th annual race from Folsom to the state Capitol.

Monyenye, 24, shaved 20 seconds off his personal best with a 2-hour, 11-minute, 50-second effort. He broke away from Kenyans Joseph Mutinda and Benson Cheruiyot and Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Alemayehu just before mile 19, built a 200-yard lead by mile 21 and then cruised home.

Ryan Bak of Bend, Ore. finished second in 2:14:17 with Mutinda third in 2:14:53.

The CIM is founded and organized by the Sacramento Running Association and presented by Kaiser Permanente.

Monyenye, who has been training at high altitude in Mexico, said he felt ready for a breakthrough performance.

“I did a lot of training,” said Monyenye, who ran 2:12:10 at the Torrean Marathon earlier this year. “I was ready in my body.”

Monyenye, whose time equaled the fifth-fastest in CIM history, said he wanted to break Jerry Lawson’s course record of  2:10:27 set in 1993. But none of the other frontrunners wanted to push the pace, with the leaders hitting the halfway point in 1:06:51.

Just before mile 19, Monyenye decided he’d had enough of the casual pace.

“The first half was just so slow,” he said. “I decided to push. They didn’t respond.

“I feel good.”

Biset Abrha, 24, also sounded upbeat after recovering from a 2:33:40 performance that beat Ethiopia’s Atalelech Asfaw by 16 seconds.

“I’m very happy,” Biset Abrha said through an interpreter after pulling away from Asfaw at mile 25.

Asfaw knew she couldn’t counter the move.

“I tried to go with her, but she’s too fast for me,” Asfaw said. “I had a cold. I couldn’t breathe.

“This is my PR. I am happy. I wanted to run a good time so I just ran with her.”

Nuta Olaru of Antioch, Calif., finished third in 2:37:13.

In the push for Olympic Trials berths, eight American men ran under the 2:19:00   standard and 25 U.S. women bettered the 2:46:00 qualifying mark.

Qualifiers for the marathon trials on Jan. 14 in Houston included two Sacramento-area runners: Roseville’s Tim Tollefson (2:18:26) and Sacramento’s Megan Daly (2:44:23).

“I thought if everything clicked, I could do it,” said Tollefson, 26. “I needed everything to go right. I woke up and felt good.

“The weather was perfect. It was unbelievable the entire time.”

Denver’s Kim Dobson just made it under the Trials standard, crossing the line in 2:45:56 to join the U.S. women’s celebration.

“I was hoping and praying so hard,” said Dobson, who surged to the finish. “I started out too fast … I was hurting so bad. I knew it was going to be close.

“It was amazing. We all had the same goal.”

The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes National Championships produced two superb performances, with Seattle’s Aaron Scheidies, 29, winning the men’s title in 2:48:19 and 34-year-old Amy McDonaugh of  Irmo, S.C. claiming the women’s race in 2:49:28.

“I love the course,” Scheidies said. “It’s perfect with the ups and downs and the flats.”

Patrick Crowe of St. Louis Park, Minn., used a unique race-day strategy. After finishing in 2:54:38, the 33-year-old changed clothes, grabbed a bouquet of flowers and the ring and waited for his girlfriend, Jenny Devlieger, to finish her first marathon.

When the 29-year-old Devlieger crossed the line in 3:19:26, Crowe popped the question. A quick, emotional yes sealed the deal.

Was Devlieger surprised?

“A little bit,” she said. “A girl can hope.

“It’s just amazing.”

The marathon featured more than 5,750 finishers out of 6,000 starters. Another 3,600 runners took part in the four-person relay, with an estimated 2,000 participating in the 2.62-mile maraFUNrun.

The state champion American River College cross country team won the four-person relay in 2:17:07.

Runners came from 29 countries and 48 states to participate in the marathon, which produced an economic impact of $8 million to the Sacramento area, according to the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.