DULUTH — It was a difficult lesson, Mary Akor said.
Akor, 31, was resting after blowing away the rest of the field to win her second consecutive Grandma's Marathon women's title -- her time of 2 hours, 38 minutes, 50 seconds was nearly 2 minutes faster than runner-up Margaret Toroitich. Akor led from start to finish, winning her second marathon in 48 days.
"I just came here to have fun," she said.
She needed it. Akor, a native of Nigeria who has been a U.S. citizen since 2003, had hopes of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team at the April 20 trials in Boston. She had the third-fastest qualifying time entering the race, but she had gone six months without running a marathon.
Not odd, by most standards. But Akor always has liked running lots of marathons. She completed 17 in 2005 and '06 alone. But, preparing for Boston, she decided to change her training approach. Instead of using marathons as training runs -- she doesn't always run her hardest, though she did Saturday -- she limited her miles in the months before the trials.
It didn't work. Akor suffered from cramps with 9 miles left in the race and fell from contending to 19th place.
"I was disappointed, depressed for a couple of weeks," said Akor, who lives in Hawthorne, Calif.
But not for long. Just two weeks after Boston, Akor entered the Vancouver International Marathon and won. That was May 4. Saturday in Duluth, Akor won again, earning the $10,000 prize for first place plus a $600 bonus for running under 2:39. She said the wind prevented her from running faster. But the result made her feel better.
"I had motivation, because I had kind of a bad race at the trials," she said. "So, at the beginning today, I was like, 'OK, I'm going to run my race, pick up the pace and go on my own. If somebody catches me, they catch me.' "
Nobody caught her.
It was much like the men's race, in which Lamech Mokono left the group at 12.5 miles. The other men in the lead group doubted whether Mokono could sustain his lead. In Akor's case though, she took off right from the start.
Through an interpreter, Toroitich said that she had been confident she would be able to catch Akor, but she couldn't.
"She just kept going and going," Toroitich said.
And she will keep coming to Duluth. Akor has run all over the world, but she said Grandma's is her favorite race.
"I am always going to come here," she said. "Even when I'm 50 years old, I'm going to come here and run because of the people."