No slowing Berkut in half-marathon

Ukrainian woman picks up where she left off in Boston with win

Haji tops among men




For the winner of the Baltimore Running Festival's women's half-marathon, the future was definitely a thing of the past.

Last week, Natalya Berkut of Ukraine won the Boston Half-Marathon, and yesterday she continued her winning stride with a 1-hour, 15-minute, 12-second first-place finish in Baltimore.

"I know I can win both of them now," said Berkut, 30. "I train good every day."

Berkut, who broke away at mile 9 in the Boston race, led here from start to finish. Although her time in Boston was nearly 5 minutes faster, she said she had a smoother time here.

"It was very difficult conditions in Boston, raining," she said. "Boston was much more difficult - no comparison really. But here, it's difficult conditions, too. It's a 9:45 start [for the half-marathon], so a midday finish, almost lunchtime. Today was hot. But I would prefer dry weather."

Kim Saddic, whose Elite Sports Management company sponsors Berkut, said she was delighted with the day's results.

Saddic, who won the festival's 5K in 2003, said: "We also sponsor [men's marathon winner] Mykola [Antonenko], Mindaugas Pukstas - he was third in the marathon - and also Ilona Barvanova, who was second in the women's marathon.

"We're happy. It would have been nice to have both the men's and women's winners on the marathon side, but you can't have everything."

Saddic, 35, didn't do badly herself. She finished sixth among the women in 1:25:58.

"I'm not up there with the elite," she said.

Among the men, Abderrahim Haji, 27, of Morocco successfully defended his half-marathon title in 1:06:10.

Berkut and Haji each won $2,000.

A little teamwork

The Falls Road Running Store team of Eric Estrada, Mark Gilmore, Joe Smith and Brian Godsey won the marathon relay in 2:22:07.

Earlier in the week, the team had entertained thoughts of keeping pace with the lead runner.

"Those guys were running just so fast," said Godsey. "We kind of knew up ahead that it was going to be really hard to beat them."

Godsey ran the 7.1-mile anchor leg in 36:23.

"I had the downhill one, so mine was the easy one," he said.

On the shorter side

Joseph Koskei, 24, of Kenya and Elena Orlova, 35, of Russia won their divisions of the festival's 5K in 14:15 and 17:04, respectively.

It was Koskei's third race this month after a second-place finish in a 5K in Syracuse, N.Y., and a victory last week at the same distance in New Jersey.

"I was thinking this morning I would come to win this race," said Koskei, whose background is on the track and who ran a 13:16 in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore.

Orlova, who will defend her title in the Detroit Marathon next week, said: "I'm really not training for 5Ks; I'm training for a marathon."

Vicki Cauller, 33, of York, Pa., finished second in 17:45.

"She pretty much went out [in front from the start], and then it was pretty much just me," Cauller said. "She's much better than I am.

"There was really no competition, no one to push her because I was way back."

Koskei and Orlova each won $500.

Heat takes toll

Dr. Nelson Tang, director of medical operations for the Baltimore Running Festival, attributed a busy day for his staff to unseasonably warm weather. At least 15 runners were transported to local emergency rooms, most with heat-related ailments.

"There are several we were concerned about. These were more than average cases of dehydration," said Tang, an emergency room physician at Johns Hopkins.

Prize criticism

Konstantin Selinevich, the Gaithersburg-based agent who manages some of the Eastern European talent that makes a second-tier American marathon like Baltimore go, has a suggestion for what he considers the all-or-nothing prize structure here.

The Baltimore winners receive $15,000, three times the $5,000 prize that goes to the runner-up. The top 10 scale down, as Pamela Maldeis, the sixth-place woman, earned $750.

"The runners say it's not fair," Selinevich said. "I agree that the top three should get more, but there's too much difference between first and second. What if the gap is two seconds?"

Juggling act

Barry Goldmeier, 41, of Rockville finished the 5K in 39:59 for a mile pace of 12:52, but he probably could have gone faster.

Goldmeier juggled balls the whole time he was running.

"This is what I do," he said. "I've been doing it for a while. I started in 1989."

He said he can go faster, "under 9-minute miles," on the track.

On the roads, "sometimes there are potholes and water stops and I stop for them," he said. "That's a little too hazardous."

Big wheels

Geoff Hopkins, 39, and Erik Corbett, 26, won the crank and wheel divisions of the wheelchair race in 1:52:57 and 2:10, respectively.

Hopkins' finish was a personal record.

"That's what the guy who beat me last year did," he said. "I think I knocked 6 minutes off my time from last year. I had my watch set for 1:49."

Starting early

Emma Fleck, 7, and Christopher Yearwood, 10, won their divisions in the Kids' Fun Run.

Emma has been running "probably since I was 3 or 4," she said.

Christopher said he's been running for the past few months at various distances, "but not past 1 mile," he said.

Finishing kicks

Men's half-marathoner Dave Berardi said, "It's a shame we didn't have tomorrow's weather today, a little cooler, no wind." ... Of the registered runners, 152 had participated in all five years of the event and 59 had run in the marathon all five years. ... Finish-line volunteer Jean-Marie Moore was working her first marathon. She also does volunteer work at Center Stage, the National Aquarium, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the symphony and the Hippodrome. "I saw a sign for it at the aquarium," she said, "and I thought that might be fun to do."

Sun reporter Paul McMullen contributed to this article.

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