- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

Four weeks ago, Susannah Kvasnicka of Great Falls ended her sixth marathon in a wheelchair because of dehydration.

That was far from the case yesterday, as she easily dispensed her competition to win the 30th Marine Corps Marathon.

“I have to have my head examined,” she joked at the finish line after covering 26 miles and 385 yards in 2:47:07. “I really didn’t have expectations. I’ve never done [back-to-back marathons]. I planned that at about 10 miles if I didn’t feel well to drop out. … I was telling my family right up to the start that it was 50/50 whether I’d finish.”

Ruben Garcia of Mexico had similar thoughts, but only when he reached the 24th mile. At that point, he had a scant lead over Carl Rundell of Birmingham, Mich., and felt his hamstring tighten.

“Mile 24 was the hardest,” said the 34-year-old Garcia through an interpreter. “Only when I reached the finish line did I know I would win.”

Garcia held on to win in 2:22:14 ahead of a record 20,045 starters and more than 19,100 finishers.

The race was the second disappointment in as many years for Rundell, who last year lead for 23 miles before the heat took its toll and reduced him to fifth. But undeterred, the 37-year-old management consultant went back to the boards for this year’s race.

“I learned a lot from last year,” said Rundell, who said he helped prepare for the race by researching the seeded runners in the field. “And it was a gorgeous day this year.”

But Garcia never turned up on his search because the Mexican Naval team submitted its applications through the Mexican Embassy in Washington. Rundell knew Garcia, ranked as the No. 8 Mexican marathoner this year by the Association of Road Racing Statisticians, was legit when the two emerged from a large pack after nine miles.

Rundell said he had no idea what he was up against.

The two played cat and mouse for much of the next 11 miles as they meandered through the Mall section of Washington and around its historic landmarks. They passed the halfway mark in 1:11:54, which certainly was not beyond either of their capabilities. Each has run marathons in under 2:20.

But Garcia made the decisive move going up the ramp onto the 14th Street Bridge at 20 miles, putting a quick 15 meters on his Rundell. Garcia, however, was unable to break Rundell.

“He wasn’t going to give up so keeping up was hard,” said Garcia, who said his hamstring started cramping after 23 miles.

If he was hurting, Garcia wasn’t showing it. He strolled quickly up the hill at Iwo Jima and sprinted under the finishing arch of balloons. Nine seconds later, Rundell crossed the line.

Asked if he would come back again next year for a third attempt at victory, Rundell quickly replied: “Heck yeah. I moved up three places today. I keep taking a step closer.”

Garcia was the first Mexican to win Marine Corps since 1996. The Mexican military dominated here four times from 1991 to 1996. Yesterday, Garcia, a Navy corporal, led a 1-5-6-10 Mexican Naval team finish.

While Garcia found the clear day a bit chilly, Kvasnicka enjoyed the temperatures which began in the 40s and reached 60. She said the cooler conditions helped her win her first marathon in seven tries and cut 50 seconds off her personal best time, which was set at the Oct. 2 Twin Cities Marathon.

The woman closest to Kvasnicka was 37-year-old Liz Wilson of Eugene, Ore., an Olympic marathon trials qualifier in 2000 (fifth) and 2004 (14th) who did not decide to run until the day before the race. Wilson was second in 2:49:55 while Emily Brozozowski of Savannah, Ga., was third in 2:54:55.

“My brother lives in Crystal City and he had a large brain tumor removed,” she said. “He just ended the radiation and chemo and is about to go back to work. My mother and two sisters-in-law came here to run/walk the marathon and I came to visit and when we were at the expo on Saturday, I just got a little excited. So I went up to the race director and begged mercy and paid my entry. And he said I could run.”

The race closed its registration for 30,000 slots on April 8, but race director Rick Nealis said he could not refuse her request.

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