DULUTH - The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon drew fewer elite runners this year, as many opted to run the USA half marathon championships that preceded it Saturday morning. That did not diminish the satisfaction that Jack Delehanty got from winning the race in his first try at the distance.
The former Carleton College runner took the Bjorklund title in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 57 seconds. Kelly Brinkman of Bloomington won the women's race in 1:18:11. A total of 6,482 people finished the half marathon, a record for the Bjorklund race.
"I did not expect to win,'' said Delehanty, 25. "I thought I had a good chance to be top five. The field is much weaker than last year, but it's great to get the victory.''
Abdi's a fan
Four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman was more concerned with preparing for the Olympic marathon than he was with winning the USA half marathon title. He managed to do both, earning the championship in a time of 1:02:46 while in the midst of heavy training.
Abdirahman has run the 10,000 meters in three previous Olympics. He said Saturday's race gives him confidence going into his first Olympic marathon Aug. 12 in London. It also gave him an incentive to return to Duluth.
"The course was amazing,'' said the resident of Tucson, Ariz., who liked the well-maintained roads and beautiful scenery. "This was a great road race. I love Duluth.''
The men's and women's winners in the Grandma's Marathon wheelchair division broke course records. Josh George, the men's 2009 champion, won his second Grandma's title in 1:22:55, besting the previous 1:26:00 mark.
Women's winner Amanda McGrory, a six-time champion, finished in 1:36:38 to shave nearly three seconds off the women's course record she set last year.
Dr. Ben Nelson, medical director for Grandma's Marathon, said the cool weather helped limit the number and severity of medical problems experienced by runners Saturday. In the most serious case, a 61-year-old man who went into cardiac arrest was aided by the swift reaction of spectators and an ambulance crew.
The half marathon runner was stricken within 2 miles of the finish line. Some bystanders administered CPR, and the ambulance crew arrived quickly to treat him with a defibrillator. The man was taken to a Duluth hospital, where Nelson said he was recovering and would undergo further tests.
A total of 273 people were treated, mostly for such problems as hyperthermia and stress fractures.