- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

The official name of the 26.2-mile race through Montgomery County is the Marathon in the Parks. Yesterday, it turned out to be more like a marathon in the swamps.
Torrential rains Saturday and yesterday left puddles the size of lakes. Those who tried to avoid the water by going off trail onto the muddy grass fared even worse, experiencing the quicksand effect.
The fallen leaves didn't help matters, either, making for a slippery and dangerous route in many areas.
The hazards translated into slower times for many of the 860 starters and 838 finishers. And who could fault many of those 1,330 entrants (more than 2,000 registered last year) who, when they awoke yesterday morning to a dark, chilly and rainy November day, had a moment of clarity and opted to go back to bed?
In the end, however, David Spiller of Harrisonburg, Va., and Denise Knickman of Baltimore persevered and walked away cold and soaked but $1,000 richer. Spiller finished his second marathon in 2:33:11, 1 minutes faster than his debut at Richmond last year, while Knickman ran her sixth marathon and first triumph in 2:59:18.
But how each maneuvered through Montgomery County's numerous parks, from Shady Grove to Bethesda, was as different as rain and shine.
Knickman sewed up the victory early; Spiller needed nearly 26 miles.
"I thought they'd be close," the 34-year-old Knickman said of her competition, which included familiar faces Patty Fulton and 2000 champ Hilary Cairns. "I figured if I could run under three hours, I'd have a chance."
It was just four weeks after her fourth-place finish in the Baltimore Marathon (2:59:12). She signed up for Marathon in the Parks in the last days, she said, with the $1,000 first prize the incentive she needed.
"I felt like I recovered well after Baltimore," said Knickman, a 2000 Olympic marathon trials qualifier. "Last Wednesday, I thought maybe I'd do it. Then on Thursday, I knew I'd do it. I signed up on Friday."
By two miles, Knickman was in the lead for good and by eight miles in Lake Needwood Park, she was two minutes ahead of Fulton of Silver Spring. Fulton, who was third here last year, finished second in 3:05:32. Cairns was fifth in 3:14:07.
Spiller, on the other hand, trailed most of the race, biding his time until the end.
He was part of a nine-man pack which allowed 2000 victor Mark Hoon to disappear into the mist with a 1-minute lead. The pack stayed together through the first six miles before heading into the hills of Lake Needwood Park. By 10 miles, the pack disintegrated into running pairs: Retta Feyissa of Ethiopia and Silas Kiplagat of Kenya, then Spiller and Michael Wardian.
They chased Hoon, a 38-year-old from nearby Kensington, over some of the wettest terrain experienced in a road race between miles 12 and 14. At times, it resembled cross country, with mud marks up the backs of the runners' legs and shorts. Feyissa and Kiplagat were closing on Hoon, until they made a wrong turn after 13 miles and fell further back.
But they finally got Hoon just before 17 miles. "They just sped up," Hoon said. "I was doing fairly even miles. I was getting cold, and my legs were frozen."
Wardian and Spiller also caught Hoon, near mile 21, as Spiller left Wardian to pursue the leaders. "I was just jumping in for a training run," Spiller, said. "[2001 runner-up Lake Stockdreher] and I were going to run together for 18 to 20 miles and see if we could pick up some money."
Halfway through mile 22, Kiplagat, in his marathon debut, slipped on a wooden bridge and crashed hard into the guardrail, skinning and bruising his right knee. Feyissa waited for him to get back on his feet. But half a mile later at Ray's Meadow Park, Spiller drew even.
That fired up Kiplagat, who narrowly led Spiller through the next two miles as Feyissa dropped back.
With 1,200 meters to go, Spiller, who was recently picked up by the Fila training program, quickly caught and passed Kiplagat and cruised home. Kiplagat was second in 2:33:38 and Feyissa was third again this year in 2:34:02.

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