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What Better Way to While Miles Away

Vignettes from a 26.2-mile stroll through North County . . .

Johnny Manana’s was doing a brisk business in coffee up the street from the Oceanside pier in Sunday’s pre-dawn hours. The fact that those pre-dawn hours were quite brisk undoubtedly had a lot to do with it.

Dairy Queen, a sign a few doors away said, was coming soon. Fine. Milk shakes did not sound too appealing.

Sometime I am going to have to check out Dorothy’s Military Shop/Laundry . . .

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So here was the San Diego Marathon, its scenic route sprawling along the coast through Oceanside and Carlsbad with a brief but hilly loop inland. And so the marathon was alive and living and seemingly warmly embraced in its new home.

This event, an unwanted orphan for so long, sure landed on a nice doorstep . . .

My personal runner-to-watch was going to be Redcloud, wearing Bib No. 11. The race was on and I was watching, but I never saw him.

Instead, the leaders were Bib No. 3614 and No Bib At All. This wouldn’t do. Where were all the “seeded” runners with single and double digits?

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No Bib At All soon disappeared and it turned out Bib No. 3614 was 26-year-old San Diegan James Sheremeta, who was in the process of turning the simultaneous half-marathon into a private party. He won by 25 seconds and would have won by more if he hadn’t had to backtrack after misjudging the half-marathon turnaround.

James needed little help, so we left him on his own to search for the marathon leaders . . .

And who was leading?

Who wasn’t?

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Ron Tabb was leading, but a group of seven runners went past him around Pea Soup Andersen’s. I don’t think he stopped for lunch, but I couldn’t be sure.

And then Henry Chio and Alfredo Rosas and Doug Kurtis and Dan Streble and Doug Nelson took turns at the head of the pack and later Danny Bustos and Ernesto Gutierrez did the same.

It seemed everyone was leading, and yet no one was leading . . .

The lead women were headed the other way as the men returned from the inland loop, Kathy Smith and Mindy Ireland matching each other stride for stride.

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“We were just kind of chatting as the miles went by,” Smith later explained . . .

Bustos pushed the pace.

Kurtis pushed the pace.

Gutierrez pushed the pace.

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Turning for home near La Costa Avenue, it seemed Rosas was falling off from a pack that had dwindled to four.

And then Rosas pushed the pace to an extreme, taking charge when he ran the 21st mile in 5:01. Alfredo was going to making Fettucini of this race if his legs did not turn to spaghetti . . .

Except, who was that guy on the horizon by the power plant?

Was it Chio making a comeback?

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The little figure was flying.

He was closer at Mile 21 and closer at Mile 22 and closer at Mile 23, but still too far back to identify. He was alarmingly closer at Mile 24. Photographers, with their telephoto lenses, picked up the bib number: 26.

Benjamin Paradez Martinez, a biathlete from a suburb of Mexico City.

This guy could not have come from more out of the blue if he had literally washed up on shore. My reaction to his rally was scrawled in my notebook: "!!!!”

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Martinez was 10 yards back when he and Rosas disappeared behind a television truck approaching Mile 25. He came out from behind the truck with a 10-yard lead.

“When I caught him,” he said later through an interpreter, “I knew I had him.”

He did. He finished waving a Mexican flag in 2:19:03.

Viva Mexico . . .

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A bit later, Kathy Smith crossed the finish line in 2:43:05. Her companion for much of the race was not in sight.

Where was Mindy Ireland?

I got the answer when I was waiting from runners at the drug testing station. That was a touching scene. Mindy Ireland was carried to drug testing by a couple of young lads with broad shoulders and happy smiles.

She had finished in 2:52:12.

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Even such a pretty course can take a toll when the distance is 26.2 miles . . .

Ernestos Gutierrez was flat on his back on a massage table.

And Doug Kurtis was hoping he would soon get a turn.

Understand that this was Kurtis’ 13th marathon of the year and the 112th of his life. He won in Bangkok all of two weeks ago. And he was walking like he had pins in his feet.

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“It took me a good week to feel better after Bangkok,” he said. “I’ll be back to normal by Wednesday this time. I’ll get in my 100 miles this week.”

He only has 73.8 to go . . .

Kathy Smith anxiously punched the numbers on the telephone. She hadn’t told her father she was entered.

“I won the San Diego Marathon,” she blurted, “I won $2,000 and I qualified for the Olympic Trials.”

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All of this was one sentence with scarcely a pause for punctuation . . . or, on the other end, realization exactly what she was saying.

“I did,” she said. “I did it . . .”

It seemed like Johnny Manana’s was yesterday.


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