Russia's Minyukhin sets pace for 19 miles

Leader finishes third after Kenyans catch him

Baltimore Running Festival

October 17, 2004|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Mikhail Minyukhin sat alone on a blue plastic chair and gingerly removed his running shoes.

The Russian had just finished third in the Baltimore Marathon after leading for 19 miles by as many as two minutes - seven city blocks ahead running on Fort Avenue heading east.

The sturdily built 30-year-old removed a wrap that concealed a swollen left ankle he had twisted by stepping on a rock in a dark area a week ago during a speed training session in St. Petersburg.

His manager, Konstantin Selinevich, thought Minyukhin should have skipped yesterday's marathon.

"He also got a cold and fever four days ago," Selinevich said.

But the three-time winner of the Bonn (Germany) Marathon, from 2002 to 2004, was determined to compete.

After removing the wrap, he used a safety pin to nonchalantly lance a large blood blister that had formed on his index toe - also on the left foot.

At a news conference later, he would say through his manager that he was happy with his third-place finish in his first U.S. marathon and ninth career marathon.

But his pained body language and stony facial expression as he gazed from his chair at the milling runners confirmed his disappointment.

His manager defended Minyukhin's decision to go to the early lead.

"That's the way he won his other three marathons, and he knew the Kenyans would go out slow," Selinevich said. "He didn't want a slow pace. He thought he could break them if he got a big enough lead."

Minyukhin did throw a scare into the Kenyans, who relaxed by running 5:10 and 5:20 miles in a pack during the first half, while he ran alone at a 67:12 first-half clip.

"At first, they [the Kenyans] didn't worry much," second-place finisher Fred Getange said through his manager, Ben Kurgat. "He'd fall back and they'd get him. But at 10 miles, they realized he wasn't coming back, and they started chasing him at the halfway mark."

Marathon winner John Itati of Kenya, who spoke in English, said: "He was very far ahead. Some people said he was two minutes ahead, and I told the other guys we had to get closer little by little. There was a time when he disappeared and I said, `Oh, my.' Then the thought came to me that this was a full marathon and not a half-marathon. I started seeing him at the 16th mile. At the 18th mile, he looked behind him and he looked tired. And at the 19th, I passed him."

At mile 9, the Russian was 2:57 ahead of last year's winning pace and appeared likely to run a 2:15. His personal best was 2:14:44, when he set a course record at Bonn in 2003.

Minyukhin said, through his manager, that the wind became a factor in the second half of the race, but was not a factor in the first half.

Minyukhin finished in 2:17:00.

"He didn't really slow much," Selinevich said. "The others just quickened their pace."

Minyukhin was passed by Itati at the 19-mile mark. He had looked back and seen the Kenyans appear over the crest of a hill.

"Well, this is it, they're coming," Minyukhin told himself.

And come they did, comfirming Minyukhin's fears.

He said he realized he wasn't going to win once they had passed him. He thought he still had a shot at second place, and pushed hard the final mile and a half, but was beaten by Getange by 27 seconds for that spot.

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