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Lake Tahoe Marathon runs past bumps in the road, time problems

LARA MULLIN, Sierra Sun

Last year, Kate Gengler stood at the starting line of the Lake Tahoe Marathon without specifically training for the race and with only one marathon under her belt. Despite this lack of preparation, she walked away as the winner with a final time of 3:20:06, claiming victory over Kevin Sawchuk by less than a two-minute margin. On Sunday, Gengler reclaimed her starting position at the front of the pack after a year of hard training and with the taste of last year’s victory still lingering on her lips. Relatively unchallenged and significantly ahead of the next challenger, 1999’s race was a comfortable run for the athletic Gengler.

The 2000 race was dramatically different from last year, as Gengler was aggressively challenged the entire length of the course and was thus forced to quicken her pace substantially. Though not as easy a morning as the dawn of her victory, Gengler says she felt very strong this year and is “not as sore after the fact” as she was last year. Following the general consensus of most participants, the former South Lake Tahoe resident was greatly pleased with the change in the finish line and added the course change as an additional reason for her time improvement. Despite her impressive performance of 3:02:56, Gengler fell short of victory to the first male finisher, Tim Julian of Portland, Ore. In spite of the course’s challenges of vertical climb and altitude adjustment, Julian cruised through the race unaffected to finish in 2:35:38.

Julian, who averages over 90 miles a week at home, stated that he was not training specifically for a marathon or Tahoe’s course in particular, but rather came to the race because “Tahoe is beautiful, and I had never been there before.”

Julian was pleased with his performance and the organization of the race in general, yet noted that the practice of giving the women a 28- minute head start was unfair. Giving credit to Gengler for a “solid race,” Julian conceded that despite his disagreement with the one winner format, “it worked out regardless.”

Worked out it did – Julian returned to Portland with $1,000, and the title of Lake Tahoe Marathon Champion.

On the local front, Susan Gearhart had been running for years before something life changing happened to her – she turned 50. A mother and grandmother, Gearhart realized that halfway through her life was as good a time as any to start running races.

“At 50 years old, I decided I was either going to lay in bed and pull the covers over my head or I was going to run a race.”

A resident of Homewood since 1964, she was thrilled with the birth of the Lake Tahoe Marathon five years ago and has used the accompanying 10 km race as an annual goal for the last few years. After finishing the race last year in just over 50 minutes, Gearhart incorporated interval training into her weekly regimen in the hopes of shedding some time off of her 1999 performance. This new approach to training worked better than Gearhart had hoped, as she crossed the finish line on Sunday as the first runner in her age group with a speedy time of just under 47 minutes.

Attributing a large portion of her success to the change in training, Gearheart added the ideal running weather and change in the course’s finish aided in her improvement.

Altering the finish line from last year’s course was viewed positively by many of the race’s participants as Gearhart notes that “the 99 finish was psychologically challenging for many runners,” forcing finishers to double back after reaching Valhalla.


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