Kenya native adjusts to Wheeling terrain

WHEELING – Philip Lagat believed he knew what he was getting into by signing up for the 38th annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic.

”I knew the course was hilly, so I adjusted my training,” said the 31-year-old native of Kenya, who runs out of Hebron, Ky.

As it turns out, the course Saturday morning offered a lot tougher terrain than Lagat anticipated. Not that it really mattered in the end, though.

Lagat ran away from the competition in a big way, crossing the finish line in 1:08:57, to take the overall men’s title. His time was nearly two minutes better than his closest competitor, and friend, Wesley Ochoro, 36, who crossed in 1:10:38.

”That is my strategy for a half marathon. I need to go, go, go,” Lagat said. ”At the start I was in the front.

”About 2 or 3 miles I was with my friend from Kenya, but during my last 2 or 3 miles I just go by myself.”

When Lagat goes, everyone else has little option but to follow.

Coming off a personal-best 2:12.39 in a victorious effort at the 37th Ride Aide Cleveland Marathon six days earlier, Lagat showed no sign of fatigue. His time was just shy of a PR for a half marathon, set in 2006, in Virginia Beach.

”I have never seen hills like this. I used to run some hills, but this is really, really hilly,” Lagat said. ”When you’re running is when you’re feeling it.

”I have been training for a period of time so I was running easy, but it was not easy.”

Colin Gundling, a Wheeling native who currently resides in Sewickley, Pa., was the top local finisher and ended third overall. Coming off his second victory in the Ogden Mile a night earlier, Gundling finished in 1:18:41. To put Lagat’s dominance into perspective, he beat Gundling, a former champion of the event whose time was better Saturday than it was that year, by a little less than 10 minutes.

”The weather was very perfect,” Lagat said. ”I kind of enjoyed the weather, but the course is tough, man.”

Not tough enough for Lagat, obviously.

Brian Waters of Camp Hill, Pa., was fourth and Cedric Robinson of Martins Ferry, himself a former Ogden Mile winner, rounded out the top 5 with a time of 1:21:52.

Locally, Valley Grove’s Sean Flanagan, 27, who recently finished the Boston Marathon, ended seventh the Ogden with a time of 1:22:44. Wheeling’s Russell Mulley, 23, and St. Clairsville’s Kyle Timko crossed the line four seconds apart in eight and ninth place, respectively.

Gundling’s brother, Ryan, 33, and a resident of Staunton, Va., clocked in at 1:24:46, which was good for 10th.

Shawn Deal, 36, of Bethany, finished 11th and Wheeling’s David Kozusnik, 28, was 14th.