Wesley Brooks had never attempted a marathon before Saturday's Frank Maier Memorial Marathon in Douglas, so the 18-year-old runner wasn't prepared when he hit the infamous marathoner's wall about 20 miles into the 26.2-mile course.
Brooks, a June graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, managed to get through the pain to not only finish but win his inaugural marathon. Brooks posted a time of 3 hours, 14 minutes, 15 seconds over the TAC/USA Track and Field certified course, good enough to win by nearly 19 minutes even though his time was the slowest winning clocking in the 10-year history of the race.
"This was my very first marathon," Brooks said. "It's the longest run I've ever done, by about eight miles. I've done a couple of 16- or 17-milers, but nothing like this. I found out the race was today on Sunday, so on Monday I did a 16-mile run. That didn't prepare me for the pain and soreness."
Many marathoners talk about hitting an imaginary wall somewhere between the 18th and 22nd miles. But Brooks said he didn't notice any unusual pain even though he did feel like he hit the wall, if only a glancing blow.
"All of a sudden I just realized I was going really slow," said Brooks, who ran by himself for most of the race. "Up until the turnaround point (about False Outer Point) I was just concentrating on finishing the race. I'm happy I did the full, but I'm going to stick to 10Ks (10-kilometer races) for a while. I'll do another marathon, but not for a long time."
Brooks plans to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks this fall, but doesn't plan to compete on the cross-country running team at UAF.
Richard DeCample of Renton, Wash., took second place in 3:33:09, followed by Layne Davis of Milwaukee, Wis., in 3:45:05. The Juneau duo of Luke Dihle and Ben Muse finished fourth and fifth, both in the same time of 3:56:45.
Former Juneau resident Nanette Spear of Spokane, Wash., posted a time of 4:09:38 to win the women's race, taking sixth overall. Sandi Mulliner of Palos Verdes, Calif., was the second woman in 4:31:40 and Jill Nichols of Spokane took third in 4:32:06.
While Brooks was new to marathoning, DeCample, 56, is a veteran who has completed 116 marathons and is a member of the 50-Stater (and D.C.) Club. This was his second marathon in Alaska.
"I've got 116 in, and now they're just for fun," said DeCample, whose time qualified him for the Boston Marathon. "My goal was 100, and to do one in all 50 states, and now that I've done that I just wanted to see some different parts of the country. It's a challenging course and it's nice running here. After running with 12,000 people, these small town races are fun."
DeCample's last race was the Comrades race in Durban, South Africa, last month. The Comrades race is 56 miles long, with 22 major hills, and DeCample said there were 15,000 runners entered (only 38 Americans). He said two runners died on the course and 5,000 didn't finish.
Muse said he and Dihle ran together the whole race after meeting at work and deciding to enter.
"I did it last year and I almost died, it was terrible," Muse said.
Spear grew up in Juneau, and when her training partner, Nichols, said she was coming to Juneau for the race, Spear decided to tag along and visit some family members. Nichols said Spear was the one who wanted to come to Juneau.
"I was trying to qualify for Boston, but I needed to run a 3:55," said Spear, who was surprised to be the top female finisher in her fifth marathon. "My first split at the turnaround was two hours, so I knew it wasn't going to happen."
Only six of the 20 marathoners were from Juneau, or even Alaska. The event attracted runners from Washington, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Japan, California, Texas and Arizona, with many of the Outside runners attempting to join DeCample in the 50-Stater Club.
One of the visiting runners was Paul Piplani of Mesa, Ariz., who completed his 301st marathon Saturday. Piplani ran in his fifth Frank Maier Marathon, which is one of his many stops on the running circuit. Last Sunday, Piplani ran a 50-miler in Duluth, Minn., and immediately after Saturday's race he caught a ferry to Skagway so he can run in today's Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Marathon.
"This is a tough course, but it's not a difficult course," Piplani said.
Race results are on the Scoreboard on Page B2.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.