When Juneau's Shawn Miller arrived at the starting line of the Seattle Marathon on Sunday, he had no idea how he'd finish.
Miller was running in just his third marathon - his previous two were victories in the 2002 and '03 Frank Maier Memorial Marathons on Douglas Island - and it was his first major marathon with more than a couple of dozen runners.
But there was Miller out in front, leading the way through the first miles of the 26.2-mile course, with 2,324 other marathon runners chasing him.
Eventual winner Uli Steidl, a German national who lives in Seattle, and runner-up Nik Southwell of Victoria, British Columbia, caught up with Miller about 6 miles into the race and passed him near the midway point. They led Miller by 7 seconds at the 13.1-mile marker, with Steidl eventually pulling away from Southwell to claim his fifth Seattle Marathon title.
Steidl, 31, posted a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, 19 seconds for the victory, with Southwell, 29, second in 2:37:42. Miller, 23, held on to finish third with a time of 2:38:09. Miller won $250 for his third-place finish, plus he won a plaque for winning his 20-24 age group. Elizabeth Frame, 29, of La Jolla, Calif., won the women's marathon in 2:57:23.
"The first six miles, I led the race. I was all alone up front," Miller said. "Uli and Nik caught up with me, then they made a surge just before the halfway point. They both pulled ahead and I never ran with them again. On occasion I could see Nik up ahead on long straightaways, but I didn't realize how close I was to him."
Miller, a former Juneau-Douglas High School and Western Washington University runner, was one of a dozen Southeast runners to compete in the marathon. Another five runners from Southeast ran in the half-marathon race. But Miller's results were, by far, the best of the lot, though he had hoped to match his personal record time of 2:31:30 from the Frank Maier Marathon in August.
"Seattle may be a faster course, but all the wind slowed us down," Miller said. "The majority of the course is exposed to the wind. It was blowing about 20 miles an hour, and the times reflected it."
At just 5-foot-5 and 120 pounds, Miller wanted to avoid the big crowds at the start of the race. So he blazed through the first mile in 5:27. That not only put him in the lead, but it allowed other folks on the course to see him when he went by.
"I figured that would give me a cushion and get me out of the crowd," Miller said. "There were some other people from Juneau, because about three-quarters of a mile into the race I heard people cheering for me. Whenever I heard someone I'd look around to see who it was."
Miller said his main problem with crowds wasn't with the 2,325 marathon runners or the 5,450 half-marathon runners entered in the race, but with the 1,152 half-marathon walkers that filled the course when he hit the 19-mile marker. Miller said he had to weave through a few of them as he headed to the finish line.
Now that he's finished the Seattle Marathon, Miller said he plans to take a break until January. Then he'll start running about 50 miles a week and gradually build his mileage back up to 70-80 miles per week. That's when the accounting technician for the state's Department of Law will decide on his next big race.
"I think I have a long future (in marathons)," Miller said. "I probably won't peak until I'm in my late-20s or 30s. I want to see how much better I can get."
Chris Ashfield, 27, of Seattle won the men's half-marathon race in 1:11:32, followed by Leroy Peopowski, 19, of Forest Grove, Ore., in 1:12:35. The women's half-marathon race was won by Liz Wilson, 35, of Eugene, Ore., in 1:17:51, followed by Danielle Johnson, 27, of Portland, Ore., in 1:24:23.
Besides Miller, other Southeast runners in the marathon were:
Keith Levy, 47, of Juneau, 3:08:20 (58th among men, fourth out of 142 in his 45-49 age group);
Benjamin Gage, 32, of Juneau, 3:10:38 (77th among men, 22nd out of 228 in his 30-34 age group);
Robert Ryznar, 40, of Juneau, 3:40:38 (357th among men, 63rd out of 180 in his 40-44 age group);
Cecile Elliott, 38, of Gustavus, 3:43:09 (81st among women, 13th out of 107 in her 35-39 age group);
Andrew Miller, 23, of Sitka, 3:51:54 (490th among men, 39th out of 87 in his 20-24 age group);
Ken Maas, 44, of Douglas, 4:02:56 (626th among men, 98th out of 180 in his 40-44 age group);
Nancy Potts, 40, of Juneau, 4:02:57 (191st among women, 29th of 97 in her 40-44 age group);
Carlos Cadiente, 54, of Auke Bay, 4:22:50 (871st among men, 59th out of 95 in his 50-54 age group);
Deana Darnall, 44, of Juneau, 4:36:10 (389th among women, 56th of 97 in her 40-44 age group);
Mike Cleary, 52, of Klawock, 4:42:09 (1,020th among men, 70th of 95 in his 50-54 age group); and
Kristen Schultz, 33, of Juneau, 5:00:52 (529th among women, 112th out of 154 in her 30-34 age group).
Southeast runners in the half-marathon included:
Eric Carver, 39, of Douglas, 1:54:40 (901st among men, 148th out of 355 in his 34-39 age group);
Julia Carver, 37, of Douglas, 1:54:40 (378th among women, 66th out of 466 in her 34-39 age group);
Marjorie McKeown, 41, of Juneau, 2:08:07 (1,026th among women, 130th out of 359 in her 40-44 age group);
David Buss, 31, of Juneau, 2:22:44 (1,902nd among men, 297 out of 346 in his 30-34 age group); and
Stephanie Buss, 29, of Juneau, 2:27:53 (1,980th among women, 387th among 482 in her 25-29 age group).
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.