Share this article

print logo

Veteran runners clock record pace Orlova, Hyung star at Buffalo Marathon

A pair of Masters runners took an eraser and wiped out part of the record book for the Buffalo Marathon on Sunday morning.

Both the men's and women's records for runners 40 and over fell in the 26.2-mile race, run under refreshingly cool temperatures. What's more, the women's Masters winner was also the women's overall winner.

Elena Orlova of Russia, 42, took top honors with a time of 2 hours, 43 minutes and 48 seconds. That was good for a win over Heather McWhirter of Glenwood by 1:45.

Orlova destroyed the race's Masters record by almost 14 minutes. Leslie Carson had the old record of 2:57:32, set in 2004. However, Orlova couldn't break her own overall race record that was set when she won this race in 2009 (2:42:44).

"I was running for a new record," she said. "I like this race. It has good people."

When asked if she was happy with her time, she replied, "Oh, 50-50," her equivalent of "so-so."

It's been a busy week or so for Orlova. A week ago Saturday, she won the Germantown 5 Miler race outside of Washington in 28:48.

On the men's side, overall winner Josephat Ongrei of Kenya and Masters champion Jae Yung Hyung of South Korea divided the glory.

Ongrei broke away from the field with a little more than a mile to go and took the race in 2:20:26. That's the fourth-fastest time in the 23-year history of the event, and it earned him a winner's check of $2,000.

"I knew the competition was strong, and it was important for me to get the win," said Ongrei, who ran a 2:16:42 marathon in Ottawa in 2010. "It was my first time [running in Buffalo]."

The winner was in a pack of about five runners for much of the race. Dereje Hailegiorgis of Ethiopia was second, a mere 17 seconds back, while Pete Omae Ayieni of Kenya was third in 2:21:03. Defending champion Jynocel Basweti of Kenya came up short in his attempt to win his third Buffalo Marathon, placing fourth in 2:21:36.

"I had a problem on the way," he said. "Every time we came around a corner [another runner] stepped on me. I'm OK, but it was not good."

Hyung was fifth, finishing in a Masters-record time of 2:25:59. That broke the record of 2:29:24, set by Dr. David O'Keeffe in 2001. Both Orlova and Hyung picked up an extra $1,000 for the Masters records.

"The pace was really fast. Everyone just burst out and I tried to stay with them," Hyung said. "I ran here in the marathon at the World University Games in 1993 -- long time ago."

Everyone from the winners to the stragglers was willing to agree on one point: The morning cloud cover that kept temperatures down below 70 degrees was very welcome. Race official Tom Donnelly had no complaints about how the morning's events went.

"Everyone who ran the new course loved it," he said. "You wait to react, because you never know where the problems will come up. But so far, so good -- only little things came up."

Although a final total of registrants and finishers was unavailable, organizers said the totals would set records.

"People were entering this year right up until the end even with the hot weather forecast," Donnelly said. "I wonder if it had been a good forecast if the numbers would have been even higher."

"It was a good field this year. Holy cow," said veteran Buffalo marathoner Jim Park, who finished in 2:48:49. "It was hard to catch the front pack. And the women's field was strong, too. It was just a great race."

In addition, the turnout of fans lining the course, particularly in the first half, was said to be extremely good.

"People were yelling a lot," Ongrei said.

The top local finishers were Michael Matters of Buffalo (2:34:56, eighth) and Alexandra Gallant of Eden (3:04:36, sixth).

Meanwhile, Kiplangat Tisia of Rochester won the men's half-marathon in 1:05:08. Natasha Yaremczuk of Paris, Ont., won the women's event at that distance in 1:21:30.

The spirit of the Memorial Day weekend race was well personified in Jim and Janelle Starkey of West Seneca. Jim, a member of the military, came a long, long way to see Janelle finish the half-marathon.

"I came home off a leave," Jim said. "I got back from Afghanistan last month, and I'm stationed in Alaska.

"I flew in for this. I knew she was running this, and I wanted to see her finish. My son and I made a sign for her."

What did it mean to Janelle to have such a nice greeting party at the end?

"Everything. I haven't seen him in nine months," she said.

As for her time

"It was 1:44. I beat 1:45. I'll go home happy," she said.