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Kenya native becomes Buffalo marathon's first three-time winner

The usual rules about distance running apparently do not apply to Kiplangat Tisia.

Most avid distance runners only run a couple of marathons a year, since it's so taxing to go 26.2 miles. Tisia, a Kenyan who lives in Rochester, won his second marathon in a week, on Sunday.

In the process, he became the first three-time winner in Buffalo Marathon history since it resumed in 2001 when he crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 4 seconds. You're not supposed to win two of these races in seven days. but Tisia did.

"Since I ran last week in Cleveland, I just wanted to see if I could push through," he said. "I'm very happy."

Tisia was joined as an overall winner Sunday by Bizuwork Kasaye of Ethiopia, who also ran a marathon earlier in the month. She took the women's title by finishing in 2:39:26, the third-fastest time in the event's history. The winning duo each earned $2,000 for their efforts.

Bizuwork Kasaye of Ethiopia crosses the finish to become the overall women’s winner. Click on the image to view more photos from the race. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Tisia's win in Cleveland came in a time of 2:20:25, so he slowed down by 39 seconds. Tisia wasn't blaming the weather in Buffalo, which by any definition was ideal.

"It was one of the best days to go run the Buffalo Marathon," he said. "I think the two years I've run this before, it's been hot and humid. But today was just perfect.

"I went out pretty conservatively, but the last 10 kilometers I picked it up."

Tisia needed a little time to break it open, but he eventually pulled away from Joseph Whelan of Hamburg, who finished in a very impressive 2:25:04. Whelan had finished the half-marathon in Pittsburgh earlier in the month with a time of 1:08:53.

Bryan Morseman of Bath finished third in 2:27.10. He's been busy lately too.

"I ran a 2:22 last week, so on a seven-day turnaround I can't complain," he said. "This is my third time running the marathon here. I dropped out of the last two at about 10 minutes.

"My goal was to at least finish, and if I finished my goal was the top five - and I got third. It was a win-win."

Buffalo marathoners cross the finish line. Click on the photo to see more images from the race. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Tisia won here in 2014 and 2015. His three victories along with an outgoing, friendly manner have made him something of the face of the Buffalo Marathon. Tisia, 28, moved to the United States in 2009, and he ran for Youngstown State and Kent State. He won an indoor track Mid-American Conference title in the 3,000 meters for the Golden Flashes.

In the women's race, no one could keep up with Kasaye. Her winning margin of 14 minutes and 35 seconds was the third-largest in the event's history for women.

Kasaye's performance was about as impressive as the one by Tisia. Kasaye had finished second in the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6 in 2:40:13. She beat that number on Sunday by 47 seconds, needing very little time to pull away from her competition.

As in the men's race, a woman with local connections finished second. Jennifer Boerner is a Western New York who is a two-time winner of The Buffalo News' Runner of the Year trophy. She moved to Ithaca last winter.

"It was good," Boerner said about her race, which ended with a time of 2:54:01. "I went out too fast and kind of died at the end. But it is a PR (personal record) and that was my goal."

And there's nothing like a hometown connection when it comes to receiving cheers along the way of a marathon.

"A lot of people were cheering me on, which was good," she said.

A runner carries a flag during the 2017 Buffalo Marathon. Click on the photo to see more images from the race. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Mindy Sawtelle-Zottola of Indiana, Pa., finished third in 2:55:46 at the age of 44. She said she lost sight of Kasaye after about 200 yards.

"I did the Pittsburgh Marathon three weeks ago, and placed fifth overall in 2:54," she said. "I decided Friday afternoon I'd switch from half marathon to the full. I've never run before, and I loved it. I would have had a better time had I had fresh legs."

It was a very good day for local runners, who had several excellent performances. Among the men, Dylan Lowry of Buffalo was fifth in 2:35:55; Michael Selig of Orchard Park was seventh in 2:39:17; Vincent Donner of Niagara Falls was ninth in 2:41:15; Jim Salmeri of Lockport was 14th in 2:49:27; Ryan O'Connor of East Aurora was 15th in 2:51:23; and Matt Glynn of Buffalo was 21th in 2:57:17. For the women, Marguerite Lim-aranduque of East Aurora was fifth in 2:58:26; Val Malia-Martin of Buffalo was 15th in 3:16:28; and Mollie McGorry of Buffalo was 19th in 3:22:22.

Jason McElwain of Rochester finished in 2:54:34. McElwain is remembered as "J-Mac," the highly functional autistic athlete who received national attention when he scored 20 points in the last four minutes of a high school basketball game in 2006. Now he's run the Boston Marathon multiple times and done motivational speaking.

In the half-marathon, Bailey Drewes of Ithaca won the women's division with a time of 1:18:14. That was more than a minute ahead of Shannon Desrosiers. This was something of a tuneup for Drewes, who has a longer distance run coming up.

"I'm doing Grandma's Marathon in Duluth (Minn.) in a couple of weeks," she said. "I hadn't run a half for a year, so all my PRs at the half were done in marathons. I figured it was time to run one just to do it."

Abu Diriba of Ethiopia took the men's half in a time of 1:07.37, ahead of Gishu Mac of Ethiopia. The two winners at the 13.1-mile distance earned $600 each.

Race director Greg Weber reported no major problems during the course of the race. A couple of runners were taken to the hospital. About 5,000 runners took part in the day's events – 1,500 in the full marathon and 3,500 in the half-marathon. He said that the race did feature a heightened level of security due to the incident in Manchester, England, last week.

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