- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

When Elisha Tanui completes his 13.1-mile tour of the District this morning, he will proceed to the refreshment tables, just like the thousands of other half marathoners finishing behind him in the National Marathon & Half Marathon.

Then Tanui’s focus turns to getting to his next race, Sunday’s Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach.

If all goes well this weekend, Tanui said, his wife and two young daughters in Eldoret, Kenya - the hotbed for the world’s great distance runners - will be pleased.

“The $1,000 first prize here is about 70,000 shillings, which is enough to feed my family for five months,” said Tanui, 26. “After the war in Kenya in 2007, there is a lot of food crisis. There is a lot of joblessness, a lot of corruption. After the election in 2007, the war broke out and I had to stop training because it was too dangerous. Now I’m struggling to feed my family.”

Tanui said the first time he came to the United States seeking a living on the roads was from October to December last year, when he earned $2,000. His current stay began March 11; he plans to travel the United States, Canada and Mexico in the next three months, looking for prize money.

Running for money is not an easy way to make a living. In mid-November, Tanui spent 24 hours running a race in Texas, completing 139 miles and taking in $1,500 for second place. But other international athletes have come to this event to fight for a piece of the $14,000 purse.

Marc Davis, elite athlete coordinator and former U.S. record holder in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, was tasked with bringing runners who could produce a sub-2:20 marathon and unseat Michael Wardian, winner of all three National Marathons.

“I’ve got three runners that I’ve brought in who have pretty good resumes,” Davis said. “The most recent top time on that list is David Mosop, who in his debut marathon ran 2:15:57 at altitude in Nairobi, Kenya, last fall.”

Davis also pointed to Canadian Charles Bedley (2:16:36 at the 2007 Cal International Marathon) and 2008 U.S. Olympic marathon trials qualifier Patrick Moulton (2:15:26 at the 2007 Austin Marathon).

“If the pace stays on 2:19-2:20, there could be four or more guys in the mix,” Davis said.

Wardian’s event record is 2:24:59, set last year.

Three Ethiopian women - Yihunilish Bekele, Muluye Gurma (second at the St. Patrick’s Day 8K earlier this month in the District) and Yihunilish Delelacha - could sweep the women’s marathon.

In the men’s half marathon, Ethiopian Demesse Tefera, New Zealander John Henwood, Notre Dame graduate Luke Watson, inaugural half marathon winner Gurmessa Megerssa of Ethiopia and 2007 half champ Christopher Raabe should challenge Tanui. American Kelly Chin and Slovakian Katarina Janosikova are also entered.

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