- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

BALTIMORE — One of the perks of being a world-class athlete is that race officials usually pick up the tab for a room at the race hotel.

Neither Rima Dubovik of Ukraine nor Yirefu Birhanu of Ethiopia was able to take advantage for yesterday’s Baltimore Marathon, as each stayed at the home of an area runner. Dubovik said her manager failed to enter her into the race, and Birhanu decided at the last minute to come to Baltimore and no rooms were available.

Yet neither seemed particularly affected. Dubovik set an event record, and Birhanu notched an upset victory in his first marathon.

“I bought the [plane] tickets back in September,” Dubovik said. “My manager messed up.”

However, that did not stop Dubovik from winning her fifth marathon in 20 attempts with a time of 2:35:45.

In the process, she sliced more than four minutes off the event record (2:40:21) set by Russian Ramilia Burangulova in 2004 — and she also took home $15,000, enough for quite a few nights’ stay at a fancy hotel.

Early leader Maria Portilla of Peru faded after a strong start but hung on to finish second in 2:36:24.

Birhanu, on the other hand, had lots of company far into the 26.2-mile race, which featured 2,763 starters. A pack of 11 runners at 17 miles was reduced to eight at 20 miles and six at 22 miles. Then, with just more than four miles to go, Birhanu had back-to-back downhill miles of 4:51 and 4:36 and was gone for good en route to a 2:16.27 in his debut.

“I am not happy about the time,” Birhanu said through an interpreter. “I just wanted to get the marathon experience.”

Olympic trials — The District’s Christopher Raabe became the fourth local man to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in November 2007 in New York City. He beat the 2:22 standard with a 2:20:58, 10th-place finish in Baltimore.

Arlington’s Chris Graff also qualified when he ran 2:18:18 at the USA Marathon Championship in St. Paul, Minn., two weeks ago, earning an “A” standard to get him virtually an all-expenses-paid trip to New York.

He joins Jacob Frey of Oakton, who ran 2:17:37 at the February Austin Marathon, and Chris Banks, a Springfield native who barely qualified with a 2:21:44 at the Los Angeles Marathon in March.

Both Alan Webb of Reston and Rod Koborsi of Washington have “B” qualifiers by way of their 10,000-meter track performances.

Mary Kate Bailey of Arlington qualified for the women’s trials at last year’s USA championships in 2:46:03, with 57 seconds to spare. But Susannah Kvasnicka of Great Falls just did it last weekend in winning the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pa., in 2:45:06. Samia Akbar of Herndon and Northern Virginia native Dana Coons each have qualified based on their 10,000-meter times.

End of drought? — An American woman hasn’t won the New York City Marathon since Miki Gorman ran to victory in 1977.

If the past two years mean anything, that could change next month.

Deena Kastor, the fastest female marathon runner in U.S. history, has been training in Mammouth Lakes, Calif., with only one goal in mind.

“Every time I get out and train for a marathon, it’s been a different experience,” she said. “I am training to be aggressive when the pace changes, trying to fight the fatigue when I am hurting on a two-hour run.”

Kastor certainly has won that battle the past two years. After a stunning bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics, she won Chicago last year and London this past spring, breaking her own American marathon record in 2:19:36. That made Kastor the fourth-fastest female marathoner of all time and only the eighth woman in history to break the 2:20 barrier.

Age-old question When Alisa Harvey won the Army Ten-Miler last weekend, she became the oldest female champion. But she was not the oldest champion overall. Harvey celebrated her 41st birthday Sept. 16, so on race day she was 23 days into her new age. However, when Sammy Ngatia won the 2000 race, he was 72 days into his new age of 41, with a birth date of Aug. 5, 1959.

If Harvey wins again for the fifth time next year, she will rightfully claim the title as the oldest winner.

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