- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

Richard Cochrane forged to the lead after eight miles and ran solo for the remainder of yesterday's 25th Marine Corps Marathon.

Just two things were on the mind of the 27-year Naval flight officer: whether he would make it to the finish line before collapsing and how much he wanted to win the nation's fifth-largest race of 26 miles, 285 yards for his former flight school roommate Lt. Bruce Donald, who died in a plane crash in the Persian Gulf on Sept. 29.

Cochrane attended Donald's funeral Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery, within view of yesterday's finish line, where Cochrane collapsed to the lawn just a step past the finish tape.

It took the 1995 Naval Academy graduate 2 hours, 25 minutes, 50 seconds slowest winning time in the event's history to take the tourist route from the Marines' Iwo Jima Memorial through Washington and back across the Potomac ahead of a record 17,641 starters and 17,186 finishers.

Some 90 minutes earlier, 54-year-old William Edler of Delmar, Md., collapsed from an apparent heart attack near the two-mile mark and died.

Efforts by race personnel to resuscitate Edler failed. He was the fourth participant to die in the 25-year history of the race. A spectator died of a heart attack just before the start of the 1997 race.

Much like Cochrane, Canadian Elizabeth Ruel led after the first mile. Nobody came close as the 33-year-old speech therapist, who endured a 13-hour bus trip with her boyfriend from a town north of Montreal to Washington, turned her first trip to the nation's capital into a memorable one.

"I think I'll fly here next year," joked Ruel after ending her 12th marathon in 2:47:52, a five-minute improvement on her personal best at Ottawa in May.

Ruel considered herself lucky to even get into the race, which was sold out in mid-February. She received her application after the deadline from the Canadian Embassy, then did the Maple Leaf proud.

By the halfway mark, she was more than two minutes ahead of Liz Speegle from Woodbridge, Va., in 1:22 and change.

"I said to keep my pace and not bother with anything behind me," Ruel said. But the warming temperatures, which made it into the upper 60s, began to hamper Ruel coming out of East Potomac Park after 20 miles.

Nonetheless, Speegle, who was second in 2:52:04, and Connie Davis of Croton, N.Y., who was third in 2:58:05, were slowing even more.

"I was waiting for the water stop at mile 24," said Ruel, who ran her first marathon in Montreal, in 1996. "It was so hot with the wind at our backs on that last stretch of highway before the finish."

Cochrane could not have agreed more with Ruel's assessment. Nor could Mark Croasdale, the favorite and defending champion who crossed the Atlantic last year to win one for Britain's Royal Navy.

"The heat just got to me at Hains Point," said Cochrane, who was seventh here in 1998 in 2:34:18, his only other marathon. "It was really getting to me. I didn't think I had the win."

But at the point, the man chasing him Croasdale was not faring so well himself.

While neither Croasdale nor anybody else in close range knew anything about Cochrane, Cochrane had no idea that Croasdale was not the same Croasdale who ran the 2:23:27 to win here last year or who had a 2:17:40 best in 1993.

"Not to make excuses, but at the Berlin Marathon [on Sept. 10], I had an abdominal strain at 18 miles and had to stop," said Croasdale, who was third here in 1996 and second in 1998. "For the last six weeks, I've been trying to hold it together."

He did hold it together for 19 miles, then it all fell apart. Croasdale, then in second, started to walk a bit at 19 miles just past Hains Point and then again at 21 around the Tidal Basin.

"This year's pace was very similar to last year's," said Croasdale, a corporal in Royal Navy's Marine division. "I had let [Cochrane] go early on and thought he'd come back. He didn't. At 19 miles, I knew the race was gone. He was slowing dramatically but I was slowing down more."

"I pretty much gave it all I had in the first 20 miles," Cochrane said. "The last 10 kilometers was really tough. My legs were trashed."

"The last few miles, you just get egged on by so many spectators," said Croasdale, a former world class cross-country skier who said he did not feel any abdominal pains but his fitness level and confidence cost him the race. "I was on 2:15 pace at Berlin and I thought I could get away with a 2:23 here."

He nearly ended Marine Corps as he ended Berlin, but there was one thing keeping him in the game yesterday: the Challenge Cup between the U.S. Marines and the Royal Navy.

"Any other day, I would have walked off the course," he said. "But I had the team to worry about."

While Cochrane was collapsing at the finish, Croasdale had resigned himself to walk the last hill. It was there that Juan Lopez of Mexico and Mark Cucuzzella from the U.S. Air Force in Denver overtook him.

Lopez, fourth here last year, ran 2:28:33 to Cucuzzella's 2:28:55. Croasdale was another 43 seconds back.

It didn't matter to him. The Royal Navy defeated the U.S. Marines for the 15th time in 23 Challenge Cup competitions.

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