The birthday girl announces her retirement from competitive running after winning the Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon.
Written by: Mario Fraioli
Some days everything just goes your way, and for Polish Olympian Dorota Gruca, Sunday at the Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon was one of those days.
Crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 44 minutes and 36 seconds, Gruca outdistanced herself from the rest of the women’s field to win easily on her 40th birthday.
“This was a great gift for me,” Gruca said of her victory. “I expected to run a little bit faster but I tried my best to run fast today. At 20 miles my sciatic nerve acted up, so I stopped, I stretched and tried to do something but my pace slowed down. But I’m still happy that I won.”
Gruca, who competed at the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing, ran 2:39:19 just six weeks ago to capture her first Polish national marathon championship. Despite still feeling a bit of fatigue in her legs from that most recent effort, Gruca said she never felt threatened at any point of Sunday’s race. In a surprise announcement after the race, however, Gruca said that Las Vegas would likely be her final competitive effort.
“No more races,” Gruca said. “I already decided to retire today. I need a break. I’m getting slower and I hate to run slow. I can still run 2:30-2:35 but I need some time for recovery. I’ve been running for 25 years and I need a break, I just need that. Maybe I’ll come back for Masters competitions, I don’t know yet.”
Orrville Ohio’s Beth Woodward was the distant runner-up in 2:59:04, just ahead of Beth Walsh of Encinitas, California, who finished another five seconds back.
In the men’s race, Josh Cox of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., airplaned his way down the final stretch in front of the Mandalay Bay hotel to cross the finish line in a winning time of 2:25:05. It was an exciting victory for Cox, who finished second in a personal best 2:13:51 at the Cal International Marathon one year ago.
“The game plan was to get the ball rolling on the back half,” said Cox, who holds the American Record for 50K and will make a world-record attempt at the distance next month at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona event. “I kept the horses in the barn during the first half. I was taking it one mile at a time. I was trying to keep my pace under control.”
Seattle’s Steve Dekoker was the runner-up in 2:31:21, while Ecuador’s Stalin Barros took third in 2:31:52.
In the half marathon races, Cox’s Mammoth Track Club teammate Scott Bauhs took nearly a minute off his personal best to win in 1:02:39, 52 seconds up on another Mammoth Track Club runner, Patrick Smyth. Canada’s Matt Loiselle rounded out the top three, crossing the finish line in 1:05:12.
Bauhs and Smyth worked together for much of the race, running side by side through 10K in 29:22 before Bauhs began to pull away. Crossing 10 miles in 47:37, Bauhs had 10 seconds on his teammate, and then ran a final 5K of 15:02 to Smyth’s 15:41 to account for the final finishing margin.
“It was a great event, the atmosphere here was as good as any race I’ve ever done,” said Bauhs. “Running down the strip with the masses on my left and all the people watching, with the bands and all the giant casinos, was better than I could have imagined.”
The women’s race was a much different story, although the winner was also a member of coach Terrence Mahon’s Mammoth Track Club.
Olympian Jen Rhines crossed the finish line in 1:14:57, winning easily over Great Britain’s Nicki Archer, who came across in 1:18:01. Johanna Bonfiglio was third, a minute and 8 seconds behind Rhines in 1:19:07.
Rhines, a three-time Olympian with a personal best of 1:11:45 for the distance, tucked behind a pack of male runners and was never threatened on the out-n-back course run entirely on the world-famous Vegas Strip. With her hard work now done for the day, Rhines was looking forward to having a fun night out in Sin City.
“It was a really fun race because the crowds were great on the first half and it was really exciting all the way up the strip,” said Rhines. “Today had a really good vibe and now I’m looking forward to playing some poker.”
Some 28,000 runners took part in Sunday’s races, which benefited the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. For complete coverage of Sunday’s event, including stories, results, photos and more, check out Competitor.com’s Complete Coverage Page. [sig:MarioFraioli]