Justin Gillette was on his game Saturday at the 11th Annual Maryville Marathon/Half Marathon/10K/5K.
And he needed to be in order to extend his streak of Maryville Marathon victories.
Facing stiffer competition than in year's past, Gillette ran his fastest ever Maryville Marathon time of 2:35:09.56 to win the 26.2 mile race for the fourth consecutive year.
He finished exactly three minutes and 46 seconds ahead of second place finisher Chan Yew Woo from Des Moines, Iowa.
The two were neck-and-neck for the first half of the race before Gillette surged to a lead he was able to maintain.
"This was probably the most competitive of the previous three," said Gillette, a resident of Goshen, Ind. "I had a guy running real hard me with through the half, then we made the turnaround and he stopped to use the porta-john at the finish line area, so I took advantage of that situation and tried to put as much distance on him as I could. The wind was kind of tough on the highway, but I was able to hold on. It was closer than some of the others have been."
By finishing first, the 30-year-old Gillette collected a $600 check, raising his career earnings in Maryville to $2,400.
This was his seventh marathon victory of the year and the 64th of his career. He ranks fifth in the world and second among all Americans in career victories.
"This year I've been struggling compared to other years adjusting to new routines at home," said Gillette who recently became a father. "I felt pretty confident today and thought it could go better."
Gillette's wife, Melissa, also ran in the marathon after taking last year's off. She finished second among all females and eighth overall with a time of 3:22:58.92.
The female marathon winner in 2010 and 2011, Melissa crossed the finish line 18 seconds behind new female champion Jaclyn Long of Hoyt, Kan.
"Going into the race, I didn't have high expectations," said Melissa who was two months removed from giving birth to the couple's first child. "I just wanted to go out and have fun and see what I could do. Now, I'm kicking myself because I didn't know how close I was to the first place person. I didn't find out until the last mile and there wasn't enough time to catch her. It wasn't like I was just going out and lolly-gagging, but I could've made a move earlier. I had a lot left in my legs, but I don't want to put her down because she's obviously a strong runner."
The runner-up finish earned Melissa $300 which covers most of her travel expenses.
Had she finished first, it would've marked the third time in four years that her and her husband were the male and female champions.
Page 2 of 3 - "It would've been cool if we won like we did in the past, but she waited too long to catch the lady in front of her," said Justin Gillette. "There's no shame in that. She has a baby that's two months old. Who runs a marathon when their baby is two months old anyhow? Only crazy people. I'm not sure if I have a sane wife or not."
Ahead the entire race, Long required a strong finishing kick to hold off Gillette who closed on her in the last mile-and-a-half. Long's time of 3:22.40.10 was a new personal best by one second.
The victory was the first of her career and earned her a $600 pay day. She's run in only eight marathons and this was her first time attending the one in Maryville.
"I was very shocked," said Long. "I put so much into this. My goal was to beat my personal best and I did that by one second. To take home first is just amazing. Marathons are what I really like and this just motivates me even more."
Another Kansas resident—31-year-old Mathew Chesang from Fort Riley—beat out four-time defending champion Julius Rotich of Des Moines, Iowa by 36 seconds to win the half marathon.
Chesang finished in 1:14.01.78, while Rotich clocked a time of 1:14.37.09.
The 1-2 finishers have run against each other for the last 10 years, most recently a week before in Des Moines.
Rotich won that encounter, but could tell during this race, the outcome would be different.
"I told him I wasn't feeling good, so he was happy because he knew he'd win," said Rotich. "We ran together until we were by the high school, then he took off. He was pushing me for a while and then I was like 'you go.' I just wanted to run my best and just finish, so that's why I knew I would be No. 2."
Maryville resident Kenny Miller came in 14 minutes behind both Chesang and Rotich to finish third—highest among all locals in either marathon race. The top female finisher was Quinn Vermie of Kansas City with a time of 1:32.33.76. Joann Ships, a resident of Maryville, finished runner-up and ninth overall with a time of 1:34.53.88.
Both Vermie and Chesang were awarded $300, while $150 went to Rotich and Shipps.
The 10K race was dominated locally, with six of the top eight and eight of the top 11 finishers hailing from Maryville.
Maryville's Rodney Bade won the race by over a minute with a time of 40:01.25. Dan Ferguson finished second in 41:49.34.
No cash prizes were given out in that race or the 5K which contained 133 runners, most of which were from Maryville or surrounding communities.
Page 3 of 3 - The first place finisher in the 5K was Anthony Davidson of Maryville with a time of 17:53.42. Former Spoofhound Ben Sporleder, who now lives in Marshall, finished second in 18:06.69.
A marathon record 324 runners took part in this year's event.
All four races began and ended at Donaldson Westside Park.
Conditions were ideal much of the day, with temperatures in the high 60's and a slight breeze.