Kolpakova goes distance for Baltimore

Two-time winner runs here, then ultra-marathon

Baltimore Marathon

October 15, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Detroit last week.

Baltimore this week.

Next month, the world.

Elvira Kolpakova is gradually conquering her little corner of the road-racing circuit. In November, the 30-year-old Russian will travel to Taiwan and seek a world championship at 100 kilometers -- 62 miles. Just 10 days ago, she won a marathon in Detroit, and Saturday she will attempt to make history in the third Baltimore Running Festival.

Kolpakova won here in 2001, when everyone else complained about a course that climbed into the north side. She repeated last year on flatter terrain, and she'll be after an unprecedented third straight local title on yet another course in the Baltimore Marathon.

"I don't want to say this is easy for her, or say it's like a training run," said Konstantin Selinevich, Kolpakova's manager, "but she is a ultra-marathoner."

Selinevich is the guiding force behind Red Square Sports, the Gaithersburg-based agency that serves as a base for runners from Russia and Eastern Europe. His most famous client is Svetlana Zakharova, a Russian who on Sunday became only the third woman to win the Boston and Chicago marathons in the same year.

Zakharova used some of her previous prize money to purchase a home in Montgomery County, where the basement is used as a flop house by other Red Square runners. Kolpakova has spent the past week in Rockville at the home of Andrey Kuznetsov, another Red Square client who, at age 45, has kept his career going in the masters age group.

With her husband and son, Kolpakova lives in Kislovodsk, a town in the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia, near Turkey. She began running 12 years ago in her hometown of Berezniki well to the north. It sits on the western side of the Ural Mountains, on a latitude similar to that of Juneau, Alaska.

Kolpakova, who speaks no English, will turn 31 on Oct. 30. She is a hearty woman who routinely trains 100 miles a week, and the longer the race, the better her chances.

Her marathon best of 2 hours, 36 minutes -- Zakharova ran 2:23:07 in Chicago -- came in 1996. Kolpakova's biggest payday, $25,000, came at the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Kolpakova won here last year in an even 2:50, and her winning time Oct. 5 in Detroit was a second under 2:47.

She may have to go that fast to turn back a field that includes fellow countrywoman Viktoria Zueva, who ran 2:38:21 on a fast course in Austin, Texas, in February; and Ruxton's Lee DiPietro, who at 45 is retired from the triathlon and more dedicated than ever to marathoning.

DiPietro was only 3:22 behind Kolpakova last year, and is bolstered by a string of strong performances. In June, she qualified for April's Olympic trials with a 2:47:14 at the Grandma's Marathon in Minnesota. Last month at the Philadelphia Distance Run, she set an American age group record of 1:18:12 in the half-marathon.

"I'm ready to go," DiPietro said two days ago. "I hate the waiting."

Zueva and DiPietro want to keep Kolpakova from making history at the Baltimore Running Festival.

The event, which this year will have more than 7,000 participants in five races, returned marathoning to the city after a 12-year absence. For much of its run, from 1973 to 1989, the Maryland Marathon was based at Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street. Olympians Ron Hill, Bill Rodgers and Gary Bjorklund won here in the mid-1970s, but Kenyan Erick Kimaiyo can become the first male to win here twice with a successful defense Saturday.

On the women's side, Kathy Heckman won in 1978 and '81. Marilyn Bevans, who'll take time off from her duties as the cross country coach at Pikesville High to run the Fila 5K, was victorious in 1977 and '79. Kathy Switzer, most famous for getting past Boston organizers in 1967, when Olympics officials decreed women were too fragile to race any longer than a half-mile, ruled here in 1973 and '74.

Now comes Kolpakova, who can become the first person to claim three marathon titles in Baltimore.

NOTES: Kimaiyo will give a clinic at Charm City Run at 6:15 tonight. The store is located at 2045 York Road in Timonium. ... Online registration at thebaltimoremarathon.com will be closed at noon today.

Marathon facts

What: Baltimore Running Festival

When: Saturday. Marathon and team relay, 8 a.m.; 5K, 8:30 a.m.; half-marathon, 9:30 a.m.

Where: M&T Bank Stadium; half-marathon starts at the Inner Harbor

Festival entrants: 7,000

Information: 410-605-9381 or thebaltimoremarathon.com.

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