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5.20.12 - Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Tops 20,000 Participants for First Time in 35­‐Year History

Participation has increased nearly 300 percent since 2003; breaks record for third year in a row

CLEVELAND (May 20, 2012) - The 2012 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon weekend opened Saturday with a winning performance by a former Olympic gold medalist in the women's 5K and ended Sunday with a record turnout and a pair of blazing fast times in the men's and women's marathon.

Under clear skies and temperatures in the mid 80s, the weekend saw participation in the 35th Annual Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon events reach an all-­‐time high of 20,008 runners. The total represents an increase of nearly 300 percent since Rite Aid became the title sponsor in 2003, when 5,200 participants took to the streets of Cleveland. Both the half and full marathon sold out for the second consecutive year and the third time in the marathon's 35-­‐year history.

"Well, it was a little warmer than we would have liked it today, but the runners turned in some great times and the crowds were unbelievable," said Executive Race Director Jack Staph. "To have our men's and women's marathon winners run under 2:20 and 2:40, while setting records in the half and both 5K races is fantastic."

The record also included a 5K on Saturday that drew 1,315 runners, the We Run This City Program that had 750 school-­‐aged participants from Cleveland Municipal School District, and another 500 children who participated in the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Red Nose Children's Run on Saturday on the field at the Cleveland Browns Stadium.

"I think the thousands of fans and participants over the course of the weekend really got to see the best Cleveland has to offer," said Staph. "This is a great city, a flat, fast course, and it seems more and more people are enjoying 'the Cleveland Experience' each and every year."

Abraham Kogo, a 31-­‐year-­‐old runner from Kenya, was the first to cross the marathon finish line with a time of 2:19:59. Kogo bided his time until mile 21 when he kicked past the leaders to grab a lead he wouldn't relinquish. Peter Kembol, also of Kenya, came in second with a time of 2:23:29, followed by 30-­‐year-­‐old Matt Levassiur of Alamosa, Colo. at 2:24:07.

Among the women it was 35-­‐year-­‐old Mary Akor of Hawthorne, Calif. who took first with a time of 2:39:49. Russian Venera Sarmosova, 32, finished second in 2:44:16. She was followed by Beth Woodward, 36, of Orrville, N.Y. who finished in 2:55:19.

Both Kogo and Akor won $3,000, while collecting an additional $3,000 bonus for finishing under 2:20:00 and 2:40:00, respectively.

Twenty-‐four­‐year­‐old Andy Schweitzer of Beavercreek, Ohio finished first in the men's half marathon, finishing in 1:10:39. Michael Capriolo, 28, of Akron, took second in 1:12:08, followed by 30-­‐year-­‐old Charlie Ban of McLean, Va. who finished in 1:13:13.

Christie Forster, a 23-­‐year-­‐old runner from Colorado Springs, Colo. led the women's half marathon with a course record time of 1:19:47. Forster was followed by Heidi Greenwood, 27, of Cleveland, who crossed in 1:21:30. Andrea Gravue, 27, finished third with a time of 1:22:12.

Common with the 10K race, elite international runners dominated the top spots for the men's and women's events. Kenyan runners Julius Kibet and Everlyne Lagat won the men's and women's races, respectively, and each took home a $1,500 purse. This was the second year in a row that Lagat won the women's race.

Kibet, 29, finished in 28:44, matching his time from his 2005 victory. He was followed by Kenyan Simon Ndirangu, 26, who finished in 29:00 and Ethiopian Alene Reta, 30, who finished in 29:34.

Lagat, 31, won the women's 10K with a time of 33:58. Esther Erb, 26, of Blowing Rock, NC placed second with a time of 34:23. She was followed by 24-­‐year-­‐old Lilian Mariita of Kenya who finished in 34:37.

Another course record was set on Saturday in the 5K race by Stephen Benesh, 32, of North Ridgeville, Ohio, who completed the race in 16:08, breaking his own course record from his win the previous year by four seconds. In the women's race, 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson won with a course record time of 18:48, just three days after celebrating her 55th birthday. Benoit Samuelson was in town as a special guest as part of the 35th anniversary celebration.

The 2012 race featured 20 neighborhood parties, and numerous music stations and bands along the course. The finish line area, which featured live music, a beer garden and sponsor and charity booths, was overflowing with family and friends of runners enjoying the sights of the North Coast Harbor with the finish line situated just between the Great Lakes Science Center and Cleveland Browns Stadium. Official race results of all finishing runners are available on the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon website at www.clevelandmarathon.com by clicking on the 2012 Race Results Button.

Registration opens today for the 2013 race, which is scheduled for Sunday, May 19, 2013. 

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