Posted by: Joe English | November 16, 2008

Races: Kirwa and Olaru win at first Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon

Nutu Olaru wins RNR San Antonio

Nutu Olaru wins RNR San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO, TX — Chilly early morning temperatures didn’t discourage anyone from making the trip to San Antonio’s Lions Field, site of the start of the largest road race in Texas history this morning. Romania’s Nuta Olaru and Kenya’s Meschack Kirwa each made the inaugural running of the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon a successful one, with Olaru claiming the women’s championship and Kirwa claiming the men’s title.

Olaru finished in 2:28:54, holding off a late surge from New Zealand Olympian and San Antonio resident Liza Hunter-Galvan, who ran a personal best in 2:29:37.

“I really needed about another mile to catch her,” said Hunter-Galvan. “But hey, who wanted to run another mile?”

Margret Okayo, record holder at the Boston, New York and Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathons, led a group of five runners through the first four miles. Then, at mile five, Olaru pushed ahead running a 2:27:00 pace over the first 10k, opening a sizable lead with a half marathon split of 1:13:12.

Okayo dropped out after 15k with a foot injury.

“The initial pace was fast, and at the five mile mark I found myself in the lead,” said Olaru, who is looking forward to the world championships in Berlin next year. “It was a good course and the weather was perfect this morning. It feels really good to win the first event.”

At mile 17, Olaru was briefly ill and began to slow, with Hunter-Galvan trailing 1:43 behind. Hunter-Galvan found a late burst over the final six miles to close the gap between herself and Olaru.

“I was a little worried that my half marathon time was faster than I wanted it to be,” said Hunter-Galvan. “But between miles 15 and 16 I passed four runners and with all the spectators cheering over the last six miles I pushed it back up again.”

Meschack Kirwa wins RNR San Antonio

Meschack Kirwa wins RNR San Antonio

Kenya’s Meschack Kirwa, who finished second at the Country Music Marathon in Nashville earlier this year, stretched his lead over the closing stages to win the men’s race in 2:14:36.

“I knew at 30k I could win,” said Kirwa. “I was running a pace I could push near the end and the people cheering along the course kept me going.”

Kirwa finished exactly one minute ahead of American Matt Downin, who made late strides to finish in 2:15:36. Dmitry Safranov of Russia finished third in his marathon debut with a time of 2:15:58.

“I was hoping to run faster, but I’m not disappointed finishing second with a great field of athletes,” said Downin, who hasn’t completed a marathon since finishing 11th at New York in 2005. “The conditions couldn’t have been any better, there were lots of spectators and the excitement was huge.”

Leading the charge throughout the first 10k was Dmitry Safranov, a former Russian Junior Champion in the 10,000m. Ethiopian Shimeles Molla, winner of the 2006 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, overtook Safranov at mile 10 and quickly extended his lead to nearly a minute a mile. Kirwa closed the gap to 25 seconds at mile 19 and took the overall lead in mile 21, running the last few miles alone.

Both Kirwa, 34, and Olaru, 37, earned first-place cash awards of $17,500 for their victories in the race that attracted more then 30,000 entries and had 55 bands playing along the route. A total of $80,000 in prize money was awarded overall.

Texas Gov Rick Perry

Texas Gov Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry finished the half marathon with a time of 1:47:46. American Olympian Brian Sell broke the tape roughly 45 minutes before Perry, winning the half with a time of 1:02:50.

Conditions on the scenic San Antonio course were almost ideal for marathon running on a sunny day with temperatures just below 40 degrees at the start and almost no wind.

San Antonio’s Brant Lutz, 33, and Bridget Binning, 26, took top local honors as the first male and female finishers from Texas, winning the Texas Showdown. Both earned $2,000 for their efforts.

A record number of 30,000 people registered for the event and, of those, 24,761 runners started the race. The event had entrants from 18 countries, all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

For complete race results, log on to

The second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & ½ Marathon is set for Sunday, November 15, 2009.

1. Meschack Kirwa, 34, Kenya, 2:14:36
2. Matt Downin, 31, USA, 2:15:36
3. Dmitry Safranov, 27, Russia, 2:15:58
4. Shimeles Molla, 26, Ethiopia, 2:17:01
5. Noah Talem, 30, Kenya, 2:19:10

1. Nuta Olaru, 37, Romania, 2:28:54
2. Liza Hunter-Galvan, 39, New Zealand, 2:29:37
3. Karolina Jarzynska, 27, Poland, 2:33:19
4. Tatiana Pushkareva, 23, Russia, 2:40:01
5. Michele Suszek, 25, USA, 2:42:57

Photos courtesy:

Running Advice and News


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