Ethiopian Gebre breaks course record with time of 1:09:43

November 16th, 2010 | by addis portal |

As she crossed the finish line, Arizona resident Belainesh Gebre threw up her arms triumphantly. The 22-year-old Ethiopian, who used to run at the high elevations of her homeland and now trains in the mountains near Flagstaff, had plenty to celebrate.

Gebre broke away from a pack around the mile-2 mark and never looked back, easily winning the women’s portion of Sunday’s 8th annual Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay with a record-smashing time of 1 hour, nine minutes and 43 seconds over the spectacular 13.1-mile course.

The previous record was 1:12:18, set by Jennifer Rhines in 2006. Along with taking home the winner’s check of $2,000, Gebre also picked up a bonus $1,000 for setting a new record.

“I’m so happy,” said a beaming Gebre afterwards. “I wanted to break the record.”

For Gebre, who earlier this year broke the record at the Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego, the win was her second Big Sur Half Marathon title in two years. In 2008, she won with a time of 1:13:11.

Not surprisingly, Gebre, who’s used to training at elevations as high as 7,000 feet, said she feels more than comfortable running at what is basically sea level.

“That makes it a lot easier,” said Gebre, who beat the women’s field by nearly 10 minutes. “There’s like zero elevation here. I expected it to be easy.”

Not surprised at all by Gebre’s performance was runner-up Kelly Calway of Manitou Springs, Colorado. Calway, a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army who was competing in preparation of achieving an Olympic Marathon qualifying time at the upcoming California International Marathon in December, had earlier heard of Gebre’s goal time.

“I knew she was really good, so I just ran my own race,” said Calway, who finished at 1:18:16 in her Big Sur Half Marathon debut. “It was amazing. This course is great, and you can’t beat this weather.”

While in Monterey for the first time, Calway’s heart was in Afghanistan, where her husband Chris is serving.

“My husband was the one who got me to come here. He’d been to the area and kept bragging about how beautiful it was,” said Calway, who afterwards waited for a phone call from her husband. “The last race he called but said he couldn’t really talk because he had to go out in the field. I’m here and he’s out in the dirt.”

Following Calway, Carpinteria’s Heather Gibson claimed third with a time of 1:18:41. Placing fourth and fifth, respectively, were Canadian Lisa Harvey (1:18:45) and Elk Grove resident and two-time Big Sur International Marathon winner Mary Coordt (1:19:30). Defending women’s champion Mary Akor of Los Angeles, who won last year despite having asthma, had entered but later pulled out.

Locally, the best women’s finish came from Pacific Grove’s Leslie Esher, who finished 23rd at 1:34:03.

In the women’s Masters division (age 40 and over), Stella Gibbs of P.G. placed 10th with a time of 1:37:43.

Pixie Geesaman, 77 of Monterey, came in at 3:52:42.

Acting as starter for the day’s races was P.G. resident and 2008 Olympic marathoner Blake Russell

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