October 1, 2012

Maine Marathon: Vassallo outdoes himself – by a mile

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - As Dan Vassallo approached the Veranda Street underpass on his way to a rain-soaked victory in Sunday morning's 21st annual Maine Marathon, the pace tractor holding the race clock ahead of him coughed, sputtered and rolled to a stop.

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The runners for the marathon and half marathon pause just before the start of the race Sunday in Portland for the playing of the national anthem.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Dan Vassallo of Peabody, Mass, reaches the finish in a time of 2 hours, 21 minutes and 12 seconds Sunday to win the Maine Marathon in Portland.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Forget the field, not even the Gator could keep up with Vassallo, a 27-year-old Colby graduate who set the course record here in his first marathon attempt five years ago.

Now living in Peabody, Mass., Vassallo returned to Maine after hearing that his friend Rob Gomez, a former Bates rival now living in Saco, was going after Vassallo's record of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 54 seconds.

"I knew that somebody was going to take down my record (Sunday)," said Vassallo, also wary of Moninda Marube, a Kenyan native living in Auburn who won the Patriots Day 5-miler in April and beat Vassallo in a 10-mile race in July. "It just depended on how much it was going to go by and who was going to get it."

As it turned out, Gomez indeed broke the 2:25 mark that triggered a $1,000 bonus for the male winner ... but that bonus went to Vassallo, who lopped more than five minutes off his course record and cruised to victory in 2:21:12, more than three minutes ahead of Gomez (2:24:48) and nine ahead of Marube (2:30:38).

"If I had shut my mouth," Gomez said with a rueful grin after congratulating Vassallo on his victory, "I'd have had (the bonus)."

The first woman to finish was Eliza Tibbits, 23, an Old Town native who now lives in Falmouth while studying for a graduate degree in occupational therapy at the University of Southern Maine.

Tibbits didn't take the lead until reaching Baxter Boulevard and the penultimate mile of the 26.2-mile up-and-back course that stretches from Portland's Back Cove through Falmouth and Cumberland to Yarmouth's Princes Point.

With a time of 3:03:50, Tibbits wound up nearly a minute ahead of 25-year-old Katy Agule of Brighton, Mass.

Until reaching Payson Park and seeing Agule within reach, Tibbits was more concerned with an unusual case of foaming shorts. Seems she either used too much laundry detergent or required a second rinse, because the first one wasn't very effective with her running shorts.

"Well, this kind of ruins the Kodak moment," she said, wearing a laurel wreath and clutching a flower bouquet while looking down at legs spattered with white foam, which appeared only after she had run 20 miles in a persistent drizzle.

"I was here last year and (conditions were) much worse," she said. "I think this was perfect."

For the second year in a row, the wet conditions forced organizers to cancel awards ceremonies and instead mail prizes and certificates. First place was worth $500 to both Tibbits and Vassallo, who also earned the $1,000 course-record bonus. Gomez and Agule each received $250 for finishing second.

This year’s race featured 977 runners in the marathon, 1,969 in the half-marathon and 101 relay teams.

Although once again it was gray and wet and chilly, there was little to no wind Sunday, unless you count the draft created by Vassallo, who surged away from Gomez and Marube as the half-marathoners reached their turnaround point on Route 88 in Falmouth.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Robert Gomez of Saco, front, and Moninda Marube of Auburn approach the 10-mile mark during Maine Marathon on Sunday along Route 88 in Cumberland. While Gomez broke Vassallo’s previous record, he didn’t beat Vassallo.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Mike Morris of Terre Haute, Ind., receives a cup of water from Sarah Kurland, a race volunteer from the Greely High cross country team, at a water station on Route 88 in Cumberland.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Owen Bradley of Birmingham, Ala., sprints through the raindrops Sunday to reach the finish line and complete his outing in the Maine Marathon at Portland.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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