Army runners shine at Marine Corps Marathon

Army runners shine at Marine Corps Marathon #104

Competing in just his third marathon, Army specialist Samuel Kosgei took first place in the men’s race with a 2:22:12 time, and fellow Army specialist Laban Sialo wasn’t far behind him with a second-place finish of 2:23:48. Sialo was running in his …

Samuel Kosgei crosses the finish line as the first male finisher in Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon. (Alex Brandon/AP)

It may be called the Marine Corps Marathon, but the Army took the top spots on Sunday in the male and female divisions with a trio of relatively inexperienced runners.

Competing in just his third marathon, Army Spec. Samuel Kosgei took first place in the men’s race with a 2 hours 22 minutes 12 seconds time, and fellow Army Spec. Laban Sialo wasn’t far behind him with a second-place finish of 2:23:48. Sialo was running in his first marathon ever.

“I was surprised for the first time,” Sialo said. “I don’t always run that fast. Getting second place and beating people who have experience running marathons is a big thing.”

Meghan Curran, an Army captain, also had a good experience running 26.2 miles for the first time ever, finishing first in the women’s division in 2:51:47. Arlington resident Lindsay Wilkins finished second (2:52:20), and last year’s runner-up, Gina Slaby of Virginia Beach, finished third (2:52:32).

The race of 30,000 registered runners had 3,710 active duty military members, and Wilkins was the only civilian on the podium out of the men’s and women’s marathon finishers. It was the first marathon for Wilkins in three years, as she had a baby in June. She also finished second in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2008.

“It was definitely warmer and windier than I was expecting,” Wilkins said. “I think that’s why some of the times are probably slower.”

Kosgei, Sialo and David Kiplagat ran the race together as the top Army male representatives, but around the 14th mile, Kosgei noticed his Army teammates start to run “heavy” beside him. He told him teammates that he was going to pull ahead and chase down the leader before it was too late.

When he reached the final hill, Kosgei said it was “the hardest thing ever,” he worried that if someone was close behind, he would get passed. He had seen video of the course before, but running it for the first time, the sudden incline at the end took him by surprise.

By the time Kosgei turned the corner and made his way down the home stretch, there was no other runner in sight. He was posing for photos by the time Sialo crossed the finish line, Kosgei’s smile widening when he realized that the Army team took first and second place.

“This is a big deal for me,” Kosgei said. “Just finishing the marathon is a big deal. I came here for a win, so I got excited when I won it. I came here to have fun and enjoy the race.”

Originally from Uganda, Kosgei ran track at Lamar University in Texas, where he was a two-time All-American. He said he hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics, so Sunday’s result was significant for him. Sialo was also a decorated distance runner in college at Central Missouri State, but the most he had ever competitively run before was a half marathon.

Sialo said he didn’t know what would happen after the 20th mile, so his big goal was just to reach that point and then work from there. As he neared the end of the marathon, there were no other runners around, so he had to ask spectators which way to go, unfamiliar with the course.

“I was just following the people and looking at where they were standing,” Sialo said. “The cones helped. It was a good experience.”

The 20-mile mark was also an important milestone for Curran, who was asked to run in the marathon just two weeks ago when other women on the team got injured. She trained with 20-mile runs, and when she reached the 21st mile, it marked the farthest she had ever gone.

As she crossed the last bridge on the course, a few Marines in the men’s race told her to run with them so she could get into a rhythm and not slow down too much at the end, taking notice of her heavier breathing.

“Whenever I felt like quitting, I knew I had four girls behind me and this name on my shirt,” she said, motioning to the “ARMY” across her chest.

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