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2017 Grandma's Marathon recap

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Elite runners set their watches as they take off on the course at the start of Grandma's Marathon Saturday morning. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com2 / 2

A three-peat, a homecoming and photo finishes were the order of the day at Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday.

The 41st annual 26.2-mile run along the North Shore produced the first three-time men’s winner as Kenya’s Elisha Barno showed why he wore the No. 1 on his chest.

The 31-year-old, two-time defending champion won an unprecedented third straight, crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 6 seconds on a sunny, sometimes-muggy and nearly windless morning.

Barno won the 2015 race in 2:10:38 and claimed the 2016 title in 2:11:26. His personal best is a 2:09:45 in Slovakia in 2013.

Hellen Jepkurgat of Kenya held off Askale Merachi of Ethiopia down the Canal Park straightaway to win the women’s race.

Jepkurgat, 36, who won the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year, was timed in 2:32:09. That was about a minute slower than Jepkurgat’s personal record set in the Rennes (France) Marathon in 2016.

While Kenyan Evans Kurui and Ethiopian Biruktayit Degefa ran away with the men’s and women’s Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon titles, Kara Goucher’s return to Duluth was the real story in the race.

Coming off surgeries and injuries, the course record-holder couldn’t duplicate what she did in 2012 when she won the USA Half Marathon Championships, but instead gave her hometown fans something to cheer for in her return to competitive racing. Goucher was fifth in the women’s race.

University of Illinois athletes long have dominated the wheelchair marathon, and that was the case again Saturday.

Aaron Pike edged Illinois teammate and three-time former winner Joshua George by less than the length of a wheel to capture the men’s race, while Amanda McGrory beat another Illinois racer, Susannah Scaroni, by the same distance to win her eighth Grandma’s women’s title.

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