Weru defends Lake Tahoe Marathon title | SierraSun.com

Weru defends Lake Tahoe Marathon title

Photo by Dan Thrift/Sun News ServiceJohn Weru, of Mountain View, Calif., won the Ninth Lake Tahoe Marathon in 2:37.26.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” John Weru is beginning to like the Lake Tahoe Marathon so well that he’s entertaining the idea of moving to the area.

The 25-year-old from Mountain View, Calif., defended his overall marathon title and captured the battle of the sexes with his winning time of 2 hours, 37 minutes and 26 seconds.

“I was running for a record, but without competition it is very hard,” Weru said. “I just wanted to defend my title.”

Weru’s winning time wasn’t far off the record of 2:31:55 set by Kenyan countryman Joseph Ngunjiri in 2001 and convinced him that the only way he can improve is to train at altitude, not at sea level like he has been.

“I’m thinking of going to New Mexico or Colorado, but I prefer here,” Weru said. “I think this is gonna be my home. That’s why I’m gonna have some friends give me some direction on how to get a cheaper house here. I don’t want to come here and have the housing be too much. By next year I want to start running at a higher altitude and improving.”

With the competition lacking, Mike Pate of South Lake Tahoe gave Weru a good pace on his bicycle.

Weru finished nearly 20 minutes ahead of runner-up Juan Sanchez of St. Helena, Calif, and nearly an hour ahead of women’s winner Kiefer Hahn of Missoula, Mont., who was timed in 3:22:28. Hahn finished a mere 36 seconds ahead of Sonya Drottar of Santa Cruz.

Drottar decided at the last minute to pull out of Sunday’s Chicago Marathon to run the Lake Tahoe Marathon for the first time.

“My training wasn’t going very well,” she said. “Chicago is a very fast course and I do better with hills and a little bit slower, consistent pace. But it was a hard marathon. Those hills were very hard.”

Weru earned $1,000, including $500 for overcoming the 27-minute head-start given to the elite women runners in the battle of the sexes.

His only trouble spot came at mile 14 as he climbed near Meeks Bay.

“That one was a headache,” said Weru, who won the San Francisco Chronicle Marathon in August. “This is the only one I run at high altitude.”

Jon Rockwood of Tahoe City led local participants, finishing 19th in 3:19:51. Leland Netterlund of South Lake Tahoe was 30th in 3:35:02.

David Kloz of Carlsbad, Calif., dethroned defending half marathon champion Michael Sharp of South Lake Tahoe.

By David Bunker, Sierra Sun reporter

After several months of lackluster training, Saturday was the big day to prove that my legs could still propel me 26.2 miles without falling off.

My finishing time of four hours and 12 minutes in the Lake Tahoe Marathon was decidedly mediocre, but there’s nothing quite as spectacular as running from Tahoe City to South Lake Tahoe on a crisp fall morning … and into the afternoon.

And the Tahoe run had a lot to live up to, since my last marathon was the Big Sur, which winds through some of the most dramatic twists and turns of Highway 1, California’s famous coastal route.

Saturday’s competition delivered in altitude, leg-withering climbs and incomparable views. Cruising by the pebbled beaches near Tahoe Pines led to heart-pounding climbs up and around Emerald Bay. The day was magnificent, and a strategically-placed bagpiper on the top of the race’s longest hill truly rounded things out, urging runners through the final stages of the marathon.

Tahoe’s fall beauty was on display along the course. As the starting gun fired, dark clouds still hung over the south shore while early sunlight bathed Commons Beach. But the clouds cleared as the line of runners progressed toward South Lake Tahoe, and a light wind stirred the multi-colored aspen and birch leaves.

The last few miles following Emerald Bay seemed eternal. It’s the point where, if you haven’t trained adequately, your body begins to let you know. As I descended the switchbacked curves of state Route 89 near Cascade Lake, my legs had just about had enough. My fellow marathoners, who had been chatty at earlier stages of the race, fell quiet. And the aid stations, which were giving out energy gel and water before, were now handing out Advil tablets by the hundreds. I had reached the cruel finishing miles of the marathon.

I pushed myself over the wooden bridge spanning Taylor Creek, where the Kokanee salmon were engaged in their own marathon up from Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake. And then I caught a whiff of the finish line beer wagon less than a mile ahead. The smell of rich, amber hops, wafting on the breeze, carried me through to the finish line.

Collapsed on the sand at Pope Beach, surrounded by groaning finishers, I looked across the lake to where the race began four hours earlier. And it felt good to trace my eyes along the beautiful shoreline and realize that I had run all that way. And my legs didn’t fall off.

[Sierra Sun reporter David Bunker walked up the office stairs a bit more slowly than usual on Monday.]

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