Half marathon was race of his own

Marcus leads start-to-finish at Vancouver Lake

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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photo(from left) Jessica Wright, 28, of Beaverton, and Gretchen Strohlein, 33, of Portland, try to keep dry before the start of the annual Vancouver Lake Half Marathon on Sunday January 22, 2012. (Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)

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One man’s opinion of Sunday’s Vancouver Lake Half Marathon: It was lovely.

After being buffeted by rain and chilling wind for 13.1 miles, chances are most of the 400 or so who completed the 22nd edition of the race didn’t share Jon Marcus’ opinion of the experience.

Then again, Marcus ran a race of his own.

The 28-year-old Portlander finished five minutes in front of friend Eric Dolezal. Marcus led start to finish and posted a winning time of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 38 seconds.

“I came to spread the gospel of no mercy,” Marcus said,

His target time was 70 minutes, which he beat by 22 seconds, His other goal was “to run tough, get after it, and to hopefully inspire some people to get after it this winter.”

This was the first time Marcus has run the Vancouver Lake Half Marathon. An assistant coach for cross country and track at the University of Portland, Marcus said he heard good things about the race from fellow runners who train and compete together as members of the Bowermann Athletic Club running team.

One of those friends was Dolezal. The 29-year-old from Vancouver was the second finisher of Sunday’s race. His time was 1:14:46. Dolezal, a veteran of the course, said he knew he wouldn’t keep pace with Marcus.

“He’s a great runner,” Dolezal said. “I was expecting him to be out there by himself. I was just running my own race.”

The challenge for Dolezal, and everyone else, was weather that race director Russ Zornick said was the most miserable he’s experienced in more than a decade organizing the signature event for the Clark County Running Club.

“It was great — other than being a little chilly,” said Portland’s Marianne Falk. She was the first woman to complete the race, winning with a time of 1:28:19.

Falk, 29, runs for Team Athena, Portland-based women’s running team. She said she started running as a kid, but has only been serious about the sport for a couple of years.

Because it is held annually in January, the Vancouver Lake Half Marathon is a popular event for serious runners and for less ambitious athletes seeking motivation to stay in shape.

“It’s always good to have something to train for, especially during the dark season,” Dolezal said.

As Sunday showed, winter can challenge runners in many ways. And that’s what Sunday’s champion loves about the sport.

“I really like the toughness aspect of the sport — one man against the whole field,” explained Marcus, who ran for four years at Columbia University in New York City.

On Sunday, there wasn’t another runner who could stay with Marcus. Not even the nasty weather could slow him down or spoil the experience.

“It was a pleasure,” Marcus said. “Great support. A great community event. It was lovely.”

(Click here for complete race results.)