The Welsh dragon came back to slay the opposition and he did it as comfortably as last time. Steve Speirs retained his Cayman Marathon title last week and proved that winning the 26.2 mile race last year was no fluke.
Race favourite Scott Brittain – course record holder and the champ in 2007 and 2008 – pulled out way before the end with a foot injury last year but the Aussie ace didn’t even make it to the start line this time although he had registered because the injury had still not full healed.
Nevertheless, Speirs was a worthy winner, in 2 hours 52 minutes and 18 seconds, around 10 minutes outside Brittain’s record but still seven minutes faster than Mark Hogan’s finishing time. Hogan broke three hours for the first time to record 2:59:23.
“I was very confident in my own ability heading into the race,” said Speirs. “This has been a stellar year in which I’ve been able to set new lifetime bests in all distances from the 5K to the marathon.
“Five weeks before the Cayman Marathon I knocked almost four minutes off my personal best at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC (2:47:20) and followed this up with a 26.2 mile training run in just under 2 hours 58 minutes.
“My legs felt good pre-race, so it was really just a question of running my own race and believing in my preparation. Of course, aside from a couple of names in the list of entrants, I had no idea who I was up against, so the notion of running my own race was the mantra I kept repeating as I waited patiently on the start line.
“At the first turnaround point, I heard I was in third place. With three different events taking place at the same time it’s difficult in the dark to get a feel for where you stand against the opposition, but I knew one of the marathon guys had started off pretty swiftly and also remember local tennis pro Eduardo Torres passing me after two miles.
“Between miles eight and nine, despite holding back and keeping things under control, I could tell I was closing quite quickly on both Eduardo and the Tom Dehart, which was a huge confidence boost.
“At around mile 11, the three of us came together and I sensed I was running more economically than the others. I almost surged at this point, but forced myself to hold back once more.
“The marathon can be a lonely race and it was a good feeling to have company for the next couple of miles. I guess at mile 13.1 as we passed through the start/finish area in 1:27 something, I sensed a repeat victory was possible. However, as any marathon runner can tell you, there is still a long way to run and anything can happen, so staying focused and running within myself were the new goals until I reached the second turnaround point.
“Thankfully, I was still feeling good with just over six miles to go, and although Mark Hogan was running strong and looking fantastic, I sensed I had enough time in the bank to hold on to first place. The last couple of miles were fairly tough, but I was really pleased with the way I was able to stay strong and maintain pace.
“Rounding the final corner with the finish line in sight is probably the sweetest part of any marathon I’ve taken part in. The crowd support was fantastic and being able to defend my title in front of so many wonderful people is a moment I will never forget.”
Hogan was second, Torres third and Dehart fourth. First woman home was Beth Schreader who was fifth overall.
Speirs, 44, a web site developer, now based in West Virginia, will definitely be back with wife Allyson next year. She is a keen runner too and completed the half marathon in 2:01:28.
“I will definitely be running the marathon again next year and will look to be in the best possible shape to run to my full potential,” added Steve who never seemed to stop smiling as he ran. “Of course, I can’t control the opposition and would expect a slew of quality runners to sign up and go for the win.
“My main goals for next year (as was for 2010) will be to have fun and enjoy the event. A hat-trick would be an amazing achievement, and I’m sure there will be pressure from the media, friends and family, but having fun and being my best is far more important to me as a runner.”