DULUTH – History was celebrated twice within 15 minutes Saturday morning in the 42nd Grandma’s Marathon.
Kenya’s Elisha Barno remained unbeaten for 26.2 miles along the North Shore, winning an unprecedented fourth straight men’s title in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 6 seconds. It was the third-fastest time in race history, and came about 10 a.m.
By 10:15 a.m., American Kellyn Taylor of Flagstaff, Ariz., completed a remarkable finish by crushing the women’s course record by more than two minutes in 2:24:28. It was her first Grandma’s.
The runners were buoyed by overcast skies and temperatures barely in the 60s. High humidity was about the only drawback on the trek along North Shore Drive from south of Two Harbors to Canal Park Drive near downtown.
“You can say you’re a 2:25 or 2:26 marathoner all you want, but until you do it, you’re not,” said Taylor, who dropped more than four minutes off her previous personal best of 2:28:40. “I thought I’d have a chance at the course record, but I knew I’d have to be on my A game. Still, I’m slightly surprised it happened.”
The course record had been 2:26:32, set by Kenyan Sarah Kiptoo in 2013.
‘Very good day to run’
No one was surprised by Barno. He’s entered the race four times and won four times. The King of Grandma’s Marathon, at just 5-5 and 117 pounds, won by more than two minutes.
“No one has beaten me since I came here, so Grandma’s is my favorite race,” said Barno, who lives in Eldoret and races without a sponsor. “At 24 miles I thought maybe I could run 2:08, but the weather was changing. The air was very light when we started [at 7:45 a.m.]. It was colder and heavier off [Lake Superior] at the end. Otherwise, it was a very good day to run. Very perfect.”
Barno, 32, won $12,500 from a purse of $100,000 in Minnesota’s oldest marathon. That includes $2,500 for running under 2:11. Ethiopian Birhanu Dare Kemal, 31, was second in 2:12:21 and earned $9,000.
Barno is married and has daughters ages 7 and 10. He owns an acre of land, raises maize and beans, and has three cows.
First marathon since Boston
Taylor, 31, had a payday of $20,000, including $10,000 for running sub-2:29. Askale Merachi, 31, of Ethiopia was second for a second straight year in a personal-best 2:30:18 for $10,000.
For breaking the women’s course record, Taylor also gets a 2018 Toyota Yaris, or the cash equivalent.
It was a significant turnaround for Taylor, a 2020 Summer Olympics hopeful, who dropped out midway through the Boston Marathon on April 16 in the driving rain and cold. In her pre-race agreement with the Boston Marathon, she wasn’t allowed to run another race for 60 days. Grandma’s Marathon was 61 days later.
“I had never dropped out of a race before. I had never been so cold in my life, and I’m a Wisconsin girl. I was sore from shivering afterward,” said Taylor. “I was so glad to be able to come here and show what I’m capable of.”
Because of a slight course alteration this year, because of road construction on Superior Street, race officials are calling Taylor’s time an event record, rather than a course record.
Barno ran alone the last 10 miles. No one was willing to tag along.
“I was trying to stay with him, but I couldn’t match his pace,” said Kemal, who set a personal best after not finishing the 2017 Grandma’s.
East African men have now won nine straight Grandma’s Marathon men’s titles and 19 of the past 23. Barno has also finished second for three straight years in the Twin Cities Marathon behind his training partner Dominic Ondoro, who holds the course record at Grandma’s and Twin Cities.
The top Minnesotans were Tyler Jermann, 25, of St. Paul — 12th in the men’s race in 2:19:00 —and Joan Massah, 28, of Andover — 26th in the women’s race in 2:44:02.