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San Diego Union Tribune - Carlsbad Marathon, California won in UK Gear

>>17 May 2006

CARLSBAD – Sometimes, money isn't all that motivates a professional runner.

With the Carlsbad Marathon not offering prize money for the first time in the race's 16-year history yesterday, Wilson Komen of Kenya entered the race out of respect for his shoe sponsor, UK Gear.

"They take care of all my needs," Komen said. "I want to thank them."

On a chilly, overcast morning that offered a smattering of raindrops, Komen showed that, for one day, it really was about the shoes. He led from start to finish, winning in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 37 seconds.

David Kloz of Oceanside was second in 2:30:49.

Komen, 27, who lives in Washington, D.C., did earn a modest stipend for his work. UK Gear's U.S. office is based off Miramar Road, and the company's president/CEO, Todd Johnson, wanting to raise the company's local profile, awarded the first men's and women's marathon finishers wearing the brand $250 each. At less than $10 per mile, that's a marvelous return on the investment.

"I think these guys work too hard (not to be paid)," Johnson said. "But I don't make those decisions."

Sarah Keller of Billings, Mont., won the women's marathon in 3:11:08.

A year ago, race director Lynn Flanagan paid $10,500 total to the marathon's top three men's and women's finishers, including $3,000 to the winners. This year, Flanagan decided the money would be better spent elsewhere.

"Our marathon is not a very fast marathon," said Flanagan, a longtime local race director. "We decided to spend the money on the people."

Flanagan said money that once was spent on elite athletes this year went toward items such as improved medals, T-shirts and water stations.

Kloz, 30, an accountant for the city of San Diego, did not complain about going home sans paycheck.

"I'm not a professional," he said. "I really hate the term professional. There are a lot of professional wanna-bes out there. But if you're a professional, you better be in the top 10 in the world. Otherwise, you're an amateur. This (racing) is for the feeling."

Asked why he runs 70-80 miles a week, then, Kloz said, "To keep sane. It's a sport you can do forever. You make some good friends. Get the adrenaline, endorphines going. Your outlook on life's better. I'm glad my wife tolerates my addiction."

According to race officials, the marathon drew 712 finishers, while the half-marathon attracted 3,849 finishers, both numbers down significantly from last year.

Keller, 39, the women's winner, was greeted at the finish line by her husband, Jay Marshall, who ran the half, and her daughter, Chloe Keller Marshall, who'll soon turn 6 months old.

Keller has been experiencing some life changes the past few years. She got married in the summer of 2003, moved from Boston to Montana in 2004 and changed jobs that same summer. She's a communications professor at Montana State University. Now she's a first-time mother.

"A little tweaking," she called the changes. "Minor adjustments."

Keller is a veteran Ironman-distance triathlete, with a Hawaii finish to her credit. About winning her first marathon at this stage of her life, she said, "It's amazing. It's wonderful. I thank my child, I thank being a mother. I thank all my friends for their support.

"It's one of those days when I love life."

Ibrahim Limo of Kenya and Eap Sopagna of San Francisco won the men's and women's half-marathons in 1:06:32 and 1:18:30, respectively. Each earned $1,000.

For every elite marathoner with a six-figure shoe contract, there are thousands of runners such as Limo who log 100-plus miles a week, eking out a modest living. Limo's victory came one week after he finished fourth at the Orange County Marathon.

Of the turnaround, Limo said, "That is hard, that is really hard."

Sopagna, 24, is a graduate student at the University of Oregon. She has already qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials in the marathon. Yesterday was her first go at the half-marathon. While she walked away a winner, she was not enamored with the distance.

"I like the 10K and the marathon," she said. "I had a harder time in between. You have to run a fast pace for a very long time."

Komen, meanwhile, averaged 5 minutes, 34 seconds per mile during his marathon victory. About the UK Gear shoes, he sounded very much like a pitchman, saying, "They have good cushioning, a perfect fit."

The soft rain sprinkle falling at the end of the race, he said, was not a factor.

"I didn't worry about it," he said. "Either way, you have to get to the finish line."