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Masters winners still smile after painful victories

Recent Grandma's Marathon masters winners tend to take their time after finishing the 26.2-mile course.

After crossing the finish line in Canal Park, the winners often will hunch over in pain, breathe a little deeper and stretch a little longer than their younger counterparts. The competitors over 40 years old also smile a little wider.

Reuben Chesang, 46, and Alina Ivanova, 40, were no different Saturday.

Chesang, a Kenya native living in Allen, Texas, won the men's masters title and placed fourth overall in the open division in 2 hours, 19 minutes, 54 seconds. Chesang set a new record in the 45-49 age division, breaking the 25-year-old mark of 2:21:31 set by Jim Bowers of Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1984.

After pushing himself to break the 2:20 mark, Chesang bent over about 20 feet after the finish and got sick. For his trouble, Chesang pocketed $6,500.

"I tried to accelerate and I vomited, but I'm OK now," said a smiling Chesang about 15 minutes after he finished.

Other recent masters winners who labored after their finishes included Jeff Jacobs of Roscoe, Ill., who struggled with leg cramps in 2005, Oleg Strijakov of Russia who stopped immediately after the finish line to catch his breath in 2006 and John Mirth of Platteville, Wis., who kept stretching tight leg muscles in 2008.

Chesang, who posted a personal best of 2:14:09 in the 2002 Grandma's, said he wanted to run a 2:17, but didn't stay with the top three runners in the final seven miles.

"The pace then was whoosh," Chesang said. "It accelerated."


Before entering the media center after her race, Ivanova was coughing and gagging.

The 40-year-old from Russia said head and chest congestion limited her so much that she doubted if she should even start the race in Two Harbors.

Ivanova persevered to finish second overall and win the women's masters title in 2:36:58. She took home $10,000 in total prize money.

"At one point, I didn't think I could finish, but it turned out great," Ivanova said through an interpreter.

Ivanova, who turned 40 in March, has enjoyed a new phase of her career as a master, in part to the monetary gains.

"I've been really fortunate to have this separate category," said Ivanova, who was the second masters finisher in April's Boston Marathon.