Delie fulfills longing for first marathon victory
By DAVE THEALL
"My running career is complete," Palm Harbor's Jeff Delie, 45, said after rallying to capture the title in the 26-mile, 385-yard Hops Marathon in downtown Tampa.
That statement didn't imply his career was over. It's just that Delie had won races from 5-kilometers-13.1 miles but never finished first overall in the ultimate test that originated in 490 B.C.
That's when a Greek messenger named Pheidippides ran from the plains of Marathon to downtown Athens to announce the news of a stunning victory over invading Persians, then fell to his death.
Even Delie's best time in 16 marathons since 1995, a 2:33:32 in the 1998 Disney, earned him only a 10th-place finish. Then last January at the Gulf Beaches Marathon in Clearwater, he took second in 2:44:36 to a Canadian who ran 2:37.
"I guess I got lucky winning with a 2:44," Delie said of the Hops Marathon. "That time would never win a major marathon. But I'll take it; it means a lot to me.
"It may as well be the Boston Marathon," he said. "I consider myself the white Kenyan."
Delie, an air ambulance pilot and former ranked amateur tennis player, started conservatively with a 6:12 opening mile. He covered the first 5 miles in 30:44 and reached the half-way point in 1:22.
"That's about where I wanted to be time-wise," Delie said, "but it was a little difficult figuring out where I was in the race with both half-marathoners and relay runners mixed in the field. I just kept trying to run an even pace."
At about the 15-mile mark, Delie learned he was a minute, 40 seconds behind leader Todd Neville of St. Augustine. At 20 miles, Delie could see his prey.
"At that point, it went from being a timed race to a head-to-head race," he said. "At 21 miles, I just went flying past him and started thinking about not tripping or getting a cramp that would prevent me from finishing.
"Then seeing the finish-line banner ahead on Bayshore Boulevard became very emotional for me. It was an awesome experience to go on and break a tape for the first time."
HOPS NOTES: Delie ran his first marathon in Miami in 1995, finishing in 2:54 and vowing "never again."
However, after learning he had qualified for the 1996 Boston Marathon, Delie promptly changed him mind. He doesn't plan to run Boston next year but is considering June's Rock N' Roll Marathon in San Diego.
Delie ran Hops in a singlet from West Florida Y Runners Club, the program he trains with on Sunday mornings from Clearwater's Bayfront Tennis Complex.
He averages 78-80 miles a week in 10-mile training runs weekday mornings, often with his wife, Mary, and neighbors Andy Scavelli and Mike Weiss. Mary Delie finished strong in the Hops Marathon. She was the fifth woman (3:18:02), first in the masters division and 65th overall in a field of 1,800.
The 41-year-old said she liked the course a lot better than last year's layout, which involved a long stretch on MacDill Air Force Base.
This year, she got to see her husband three times over the route and yelled encouragement to him, especially at the point where he was about to take the lead.
Mary Delie ran two 2:57 marathons in the mid 90s -- in Boston and the Twin Cities.
"That (Hops) is as good as it gets anymore," she said.
Tampa's David Joyce came on strong to slip past Neville for second place in 2:49:23. Bob Wagoner, Largo, was 14th, 3:00:08.
Among Pinellas women after Delie, Jacki Waller of St. Petersburg placed seventh in 3:18:31, Lisa Feldt, Clearwater, was 20th, 3:29:23; and Karen Gately, Largo, was 24th, 3:31:23. Palm Harbor's Noora Alidina won the 45-49 age division less than a minute over Clearwater's Barbara Eckes. Emery Jewell of the Forerunners Club won (4:12:16) the 75-79 division by nearly 2 hours. And the Forerunners' Laure Blume, Christy Phillips and Lisa Valentine swept the first three places in the women's division of the concurrent half marathon.
St. Petersburg's Mary Ann Protz teamed with her brother-in-law, Brian Bradway, 40, of Tampa to win the marathon relay's mixed masters class. Although she finished her opening leg 10 seconds behind Sarasota's Denise Skinner, Bradway overtook Roger Sweeney, 56, of Palm Harbor for the team win (2:59:54).
ELSEWHERE: Clearwater High School sophomore Brian Calder won the Lansbrook Lakefront Classic 5K. Vicky Stum took the women's title.
In the Foot Locker Southern Regional Championship cross country race in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 24, Palm Harbor's Kevin Lyons placed 67th in the seeded high school division with a 5K performance of 16:01 on a hilly course.
The top eight boys and girls advanced to this past Saturday's national championship at Disney Sports Complex.
Ryan Deak, who won the Midnight Run 3K in July in Dunedin, finished 10th (15:06) in Charlotte, just ahead of Berkeley Prep's Rolf Steir.
FINISH LINES: Laura Drake, a former St. Petersburg resident who has won the past three Gasparilla 15K races, successfully defended her Atlanta Marathon title on Nov. 22 in 2:55:57. The Magee siblings of Seminole excelled in the Times Turkey Trot.
Laura, a sophomore runner at the University of North Florida, finished fifth in 39:34. Jackie, a UCF freshman, placed 17th in the 5K. Their brother, Ken, a Seminole High sophomore, took 24th among men in the same event.
The 100th-place times in the Trot 10K were 42:57 for men and 49:45 for women. The Wingding 5K 100th man finished in 20:03. The 100th woman clocked in at 23:40.
Palm Harbor's Dave MacKenzie was the 100th 10K finisher.
After nearly 20 years at the helm, founder/coach/manager Jack Houghteling has disbanded the Clearwater-based Sunshine Running Team because of a lack of participation at Sunday training runs.
Amy Yoder Begley, who won last month's Avon 10K in Tampa, has the fastest time (33:50) among seven regional qualifiers entering today's national Avon championship in Phoenix. Clearwater's Judy Maguire will be in the field.
Clearwater's Jim Patton, 60, ran the Raleigh (N.C.) Marathon -- his eighth of the year -- in 5:39. West Florida Y teammate Mary Grace Ritter race-walked it in 6:40 to win the women's 70-plus division. Kathy Patton did the half marathon in 2:53.
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