Kenyan Ayieni pulls away to win Arizona marathon

Updated: January 15, 2012, 5:06 PM ET
Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kenyan Peter Omae Ayieni pulled away over the last mile to win the Rock `n' Roll Arizona Marathon on Sunday.

Trisha Miller of Missoula, Mont., was the women's winner. The field was diluted by the absence of the top U.S. runners, who competed in Saturday's Olympic Trials in Houston.

Ayieni, who finished second in a marathon in Mississippi just a week earlier, won in a relatively slow 2 hours, 24 minutes, 47 seconds, 11 seconds faster than runner-up Chad Ware, who just began active duty in the Army at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Canadian Dylan Wykes and Sara Slattery of Boulder, Colo., took the half-marathon title.

Wykes ran 1:02.38, almost six minutes faster than his nearest competitor. Slattery, the overwhelming favorite entering the race, won in 1:16.25, 2 minutes and 10 seconds faster than the runner-up, 2008 Olympian Dorota Gruca of Poland.

Wykes used the race to prepare for the Nobeoka Marathon in Japan on Feb. 13, when he will try to meet the standard to make the Canadian team for the London Olympics. Slattery is a former NCAA 5,000- and 10,000-meter champion who narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic team in the 5,000 in 2008.

More than 25,000 people took part in the Arizona event, one of 28 in the Rock `n' Roll series. The races were run under overcast skies with temperatures in the 50s and low 60s.

In the Rock `n' Roll races, bands are stationed at spots along the route to liven things up with music.

The Arizona stop is in its ninth year but the marathon course was new, starting in downtown Phoenix and running with a gradual increase in elevation to Scottsdale before concluding at Arizona State University.

No one took charge in the lead pack until the very end, and third-place finisher Jeremy Zarins of Tempe thought Ayieni was laboring toward the end, a mistaken perception as it turned out.

"I was thinking `We have a shot here," Zarins said. "But I think he just ran that way. He still ran fast, coughing and everything else."

The 33-year-old Ayieni had entered the race only Friday. It was his third marathon triumph, all in the Rock `n' Roll circuit. The others were in Seattle and Las Vegas.

He said he will return for more training in Kenya, then return to run in the Boston Marathon.

As for the Olympics, Ayieni laughed at the idea.

"I am Kenyan," he said.

The message was simple. There are too many others from his country who are far faster than he is.

Miller was second last year at the Rock `n' Roll race in Denver and said he was shocked by her victory. Her time was 2:49.12. Tanaya Gallagher of Phoenix was second at 2:51:24.

Miller was under no illusion of how she would have fared in most years.

"Any other given year I probably would have cracked the top 10," she said, "which I would have been extremely proud of."

The runners wore black ribbons in memory of Sally Meyerhoff, last year's winner of the Arizona marathon who died in March when the bicycle she was riding collided with a pickup truck near Phoenix. The women's champion's trophy has been named after her and her mother held one end of the tape when Miller crossed the finish line.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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