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Marathon notebook Third-place finisher felt like she was home

Ellie Pell’s philosophy on running is simple.

“When I put my mind to something, I just do it,” the 24-year-old from Ithaca explained Sunday.

She does it well, too.

Pell finished in third place among women in the Buffalo Marathon. By itself, that’s impressive. But it’s even more so when considering it was Pell’s first time running 26.2 miles.

“I enjoyed it, mostly, except that I can’t feel my feet,” she said at the finish line. “I’m really happy to finish. I’ve been training for about six months.”

Pell chose the Buffalo Marathon to be her first because our area is “a home away from home.” She visited often as a child when her grandmother lived in Cheektowaga, and has other family members scattered through Western New York.

“I love the community feel,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to do this race. It’s only a four-hour trip and I have family I can stay with, so it just made sense.”

Pell finished in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 5 seconds, coming in under her goal of 3 hours.

“I didn’t know what to expect, except for not start racing until 20 miles,” she said. “Actually it was funny, because I felt good until 20 miles, and then I was like, ‘I think I’m supposed to race now, but I’m just going to finish because I’ve never done this before. I just want to get done.’ I wanted to break three, so I accomplished my goal.”

Pell, 24, said she started to get serious about running five years ago, and completed her first race two years ago. She’s run half-marathons before, and knew the adjustment to a full would be difficult.

“The last six miles, I was suffering,” she said. “I can’t wait to take the next two weeks off.”

Pell earned $800 for coming in third. Her time was about 16 minutes slower than that of winner Hirut Guangul.

“I didn’t see her. I knew I was chasing someone, but I didn’t know who it was,” Pell said. “With a race this long, it’s hard to feel like you’re racing or competitive. You’re kind of batting yourself. She did awesome.”

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As runners crossed the finish line, members of the Buffalo Bills were there to greet them and hand out medals.

Defensive back Phillip Thomas said witnessing the emotions of those crossing the finish line was a special experience.

“It’s definitely pretty cool,” he said. “You feel their struggle. You feel their pain. You know what it takes to prepare to do something this strenuous. I feel their pain, even though I’ve never done it before.

“It’s something that I can’t do, so I appreciate them. The half-marathon, I couldn’t even do that. It’s just a great experience to see how they accomplished a goal that they set. It’s like football, how when we set goals and accomplish them, we’re excited. They come out here and run 13 miles or 26.2 miles, it’s great to see that determination and motivation to finish.”

Just don’t expect to see Thomas in next year’s field.

His longest run?

“Back in high school when you had to do the mile for class. That’s as far as I can go,” he said. “I’ll try this on a bike or something.”

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Andrew Lesuuda of Indianapolis won the men’s half-marathon in 1:05.51. Hailemaryam Ayantu Dakebo of New York City won the women’s half in 1:16.33. They each took home $600.

The top local finisher among men in the full marathon was Niagara Falls’ Vincent Donner, who placed seventh in 2:50.23. The top local female finisher was Brooke Adams of Randolph, who finished fourth in 3:07.33.

Scott Reamer of West Newton, Pa., won the male masters division (ages 40 and up) in the full marathon in 2:43.45, while Pittsburgh’s Jo Rupp won the female masters in 3:18.09. Each masters winner earned $300.

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Marathon weekend concludes Monday with a “Memorial Day Slow Roll.” Bicyclists will meet at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park at 5:30 p.m. for a 6:30 ride through local military landmarks. There is no charge.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com