As he turned the corner and ran toward the finish-line tape, Peter Omae Ayieni knew he would become the men's champion of the eighth annual OC Marathon.
Ayieni, a 34-year-old from Kenya, believed he could win the race since the sixth-mile mark, when he said he felt comfortable. He went on to win his second straight men's overall title in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 18 seconds Sunday morning. He finished more than three minutes ahead of runner-up Nate Clayson, a 26-year-old from Murray, Utah, who came across in 2:34:50.
Ayieni wasn't the only repeat winner. Maika Carlsen, a 31-year-old exercise physiologist from Providence, Utah, won the women's title for the third straight year, this time in 2:53:13. Stephanie Kato, 23, of San Jose was second in 2:55:05.
A race record 18,000 runners were registered for the marathon, half-marathon, 5K and Kids Run the OC races. The marathoners began at Fashion Island and ran through Newport Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana and ended at the OC Fair & Events Center in Costa Mesa.
"The weather was good, the organization of the marathon was great, nothing side-tracked me at any point of the race," Ayieni said of the marathon.
Winning marathons isn't new to Ayieni.
"My first marathon win was in Europe in 1989 in France and I have continued running marathons since." Ayieni said.
He had been training in the past three months in Kenya for this marathon and had just arrived last week.
He ran with some motivation. Ayieni was wearing a sleeveless shirt, which read Team Jake on it and featured a picture of a child. That child had passed away from cerebral palsy.
Team Jake is an organization that raises money for United Cerebral Palsy in Orange County.
"Ayieni got connected and has been running for the organization the past two years,'' said Brian Green, a 34-year-old from Anaheim, who also runs for UCP.
Carlsen improved her time from last year, when she won it in 3:00:58.
"This marathon has showed me how hard you can push your body, I have my best races here in this marathon and love the challenge," Carlsen said. "This is one of my favorite marathons and the crowd is great every year."
She also added she completed her ninth marathon.
"I spent a little bit more on speed work and tempo training, and was more specific in my training since I only had 11 weeks to train," Carlsen said of her training for the marathon.
In the men's half-marathon race, James "Jimmy" Grabow, a 27-year-old from Running Springs, won in 1:06:20. Jameson Mora, 26, of Arroyo Grande took second in 1:06:57.
Grabow, who works as an academic counselor at his alma mater Long Beach State, said the race was good and people were really into it. It was Grabow's first time winning the half-marathon in Orange County. A few years ago, he won the Long Beach half-marathon. His next half-marathon race will be next month in Duluth, Minn. at the USA half-marathon championships.
In the women's half-marathon, Ariana Hilborn, 31, a former first-grade teacher from Scottsdale, Ariz., came in first place in 1:15:51.
Liz Carny, 28, of Chico, was second in 1:18:18.
"The weather was perfect, living in Arizona I'm not used to the humidity so for awhile it was tough to breathe," Hilborn said of Sunday's conditions. "I love it here. I come here to race all the time and all the races are really good."
Next for Hilborn is the San Diego Rock 'N Roll marathon June 3.
Wayne Dilly, 30, of San Diego won the OC Wahoo's men's 5K in 14:05. Chase Wheeler of Canyon Country took second in 14:13.
Dilly's next race will be in two weeks at the Rock & Roll Half-Marathon in Portland, Ore.
Lilyana Morejon, 23, of North Hollywood won the women's 5K in 15:05.
Vivien Wadeck, 32, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., came in second in 15:41.
For complete results, visit www.ocmarathon.com.