Dominic Ondoro blew through the finish line and disappeared into the chute of volunteers at Sunday’s Twin Cities Marathon.
The 28-year-old Kenyan needed the extra runway to slow down after blowing away the 31-year-old course record. Ondoro finished in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 51 seconds, repeating as champion in the 35th running of the 26.2-mile race from downtown Minneapolis to the State Capitol grounds in St. Paul.
He emerged at the top of the hill near the Cathedral of St. Paul for the final half mile well-aware he was on pace to shatter the 2:10:05 record set by Phil Coppess in 1985.
“I’m happy to set to the new record. The weather was good, and we made it,” the soft-spoken Ondoro said. “Last year I was new to the course, but this year I was able to run the course with experience. … I’m happy to hold [the record].”
Elisha Barno finished second behind Ondoro, his close friend and training partner, for the second straight year at 2:10:21. Kenyan Rodgers Gesabwa finished third at 2:15:24. Adam Bohach from Decorah, Iowa, was the top U.S. male runner in fifth place.
Jane Kibii of Kenya won the women’s marathon in 2:30:01 after finishing in second last year.
Fellow Kenyan Sarah Kiptoo was second at 2:32:18 and last year’s champion, Serkalem Abrha from Ethiopian, finished third in 2:34:58.
Ondoro wept into his hands after claiming the $10,000 first-place prize plus a $25,000 bonus for setting a course record.
Barno spent the past several days encouraging Ondoro, saying he could break the long-standing record. At the halfway marker 64-plus minutes into the race Sunday, Barno leaned into Ondoro and again said, “You’ll be able to break the course record.” Ondoro responded by picking up his pace and at the 22nd mile began separating himself from his friend.
“He was very strong on the hills,” Barno said. “And the first half was very fast. I’m very happy ’cause he broke the course record. We are going to celebrate and congratulate each other.”
The friends now reign over both of Minnesota’s major marathons. Ondoro has won back-to-back Twin Cities Marathons and owns the course records in Duluth (2014) and the Twin Cities (2016). Barno is the two-time defending Grandma’s champion.
Agent Scott Robinson, who represents both men, said, “They are like brothers and train six days a week together, so for them to be able to come here and dominate this course and this day and for one of them to get the course record, was amazing.”
Robinson wouldn’t guess if Ondoro and Barno will be back next fall, but Ondoro said he doesn’t expect his record to last long because he plans to beat it. He beat his 2015 time by nearly 2.5 minutes and his pace per mile Sunday was 4:56, 5 seconds ahead of Abel Kirui, who won the Chicago Marathon also on Sunday.
Kibii returned to the Twin Cities Marathon this year healthy and eager to make up for last year’s second-place finish. The 31-year-old finished four seconds behind Abrha in 2015 while battling a cold. This year she improved her time by 1:34 to beat the rest of the women’s field by more than two minutes.
“Around [three miles in] I thought I might do something here today, and that is why I just kept moving,” Kibii said. “[Abrha and Kiptoo] were pushing me all the time.”
Kibii often trains on hills throughout California and said she used the hills on the Twin Cities course to separate herself from the rest of the field. The 2:30:01 was a personal best for Kibii.
“Last year I was stronger than this year, but I was healthy this year,” Kibii said. “That’s why I took it and ran well.”
Richfield resident Jonathan Peterson finished his first marathon Sunday in seventh place in the men’s race at 2:20:21 to top all local runners. Kimberly Horner of Northfield was the top local women’s runner finishing in eighth place at 2:51:15.