A Spanish spectator predicted that runners from Kenya would dominate the distance races at the Olympic Games in Barcelona. The reason, he said, was that they had to be swift to survive in their homeland. When three Kenyans swept the medals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the Spaniard lit a cigar and said knowingly, “Los leones.” The lions.
Moniwda Marube may not have been chased by lions when he grew up in Nairobi, but he displayed the Kenyan knack for smooth, efficient running last Saturday when he won the 2010 Select Staffing Santa Barbara International Marathon in two hours, 25 minutes, and 49 seconds. Marube, 31, who belongs to a Minnesota running club, was a phantom to the other Santa Barbara runners. They never saw him after he bolted from the starting line and tore through the first mile in 4:35.
Although he appeared serene throughout the 26.2-mile romp, Marube experienced some stomach cramps. “I had to pull down my pace,” he said. During the last four miles, Marube caught up with and passed scores of half-marathon runners who had a 13-mile head start. “Holy smoke,” said one of them as the Kenyan swept past him.
Carpinteria’s Tim Smith, the runner-up in 2:48:27, said the only time he got a good look at Marube was “at the expo” the day before the race. Joe Nordin of Camarillo was third in 2:50:07, and Mike Shalhoub of Santa Barbara was fourth in 2:51:40. Liz Gottlieb, 35, of San Rafael, led the women across the finish line in 3:01:07. Chrystee Bradley, a 40-year-old Santa Barbara mother, placed second in 3:05:23.
All told, the marathon had 998 finishers. Meanwhile, 2,297 runners testified to the popularity of the half-marathon. The shorter race had two area champions—Julian deRubira, a UCSB track athlete, was overall winner in a fast 1:06:23; and Andrea McLarty, winner of the women’s marathon last year, was the first female in 1:21:06.
There was an improvement of the finish line over last year’s marathon, which ended on the street outside La Playa Stadium. This time, the runners entered the stadium and ran three-quarters of a lap around the track to the finish. But because of the overlapping of the two races, the marathoners sometimes were lost in the crowd.
Race director Rusty Snow hopes to feature more elite runners in the future. “Our vision is to make it truly a world-class marathon,” he said. “I don’t want to see 2:40 and 3:10 win first place. When everyday runners see elites in their race, it adds excitement for them. It’s a completely different environment from the races they run every couple weeks in Santa Barbara.”
Snow and his fellow organizers face the challenge of getting area residents to embrace the massive annual event, which entails lane closures and detours while runners are on the course. Judging from complaints posted online, people in Goleta and Santa Barbara are not as enthusiastic about runners in the streets as New Yorkers, who turned out to cheer more than 40,000 marathoners that flooded their major thoroughfares and bridges last Sunday.
“We need to get the word out on how much the community gains from this,” Snow said. “We’re not taking anything after the bills have been paid. The races brought 4,000 hotel room nights this year.”
RIP SPARKY: Sparky Anderson, the Hall of Fame manager who died last week at 76, was a frequent visitor to Santa Barbara. He began his professional baseball career in 1953 as an infielder for the erstwhile Santa Barbara Dodgers of the California League. At a Rotary event a decade ago, he recalled his days on the diamond at Laguna Park, a ballpark east of downtown that was torn down 40 years ago. “I was 18 years old. I can shut my eyes and see it,” Anderson said. “I can see Mrs. Romero sitting behind home plate. She came to every game and called us her boys. And I can see Timmy Badillo, the groundskeeper. Those are two people in my lifetime I’ll always remember. I’ll take them to the grave with me. You know, it isn’t the dollars and the cars and the possessions you look back on. It’s the people you know.”
GAMES OF THE WEEK: Dos Pueblos High’s football team plays at Ventura tonight (Thu., Nov. 11) with the Channel League championship on the line. … Bishop Diego and Carpinteria will play for pride and playoff momentum Friday night when they clash in the “Little Big Game” at Carpinteria. … The CIF eight-man football playoffs open this weekend, with number-two-seeded Cate hosting Pacific Lutheran at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. … Sunday it’s UCSB versus the Pac-10 in basketball, the Gaucho women playing at UCLA (2pm) and the men at Oregon (6pm). UCSB will be the host team against UCLA in men’s water polo (Sun., 1pm).