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Grandma's Marathon: Ondoro returns for second Grandma’s victory

In his first completed marathon since a 2019 injury, the Grandma’s marathon course record holder returned for a win and the second-best race time in the event’s history.

A marathon runner approaches finish-line tape raising his index fingers toward the sky
Event record-holder Dominic Ondoro wins Grandma's Marathon for the second time on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Nearly three years ago, Dominic Ondoro won the 2019 Twin Cities Marathon, but injuries have prevented Ondoro from even completing a marathon since that day.

Until now.

Ondoro returned to Duluth on Saturday and won his second Grandma’s Marathon in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 34 seconds — the second-best time in the race's history. The only better finish was in 2014, when Ondoro won the race with a time of 2:09:06.

For much of the last three years, the elite Kenyan runner has been dealing with knee and Achilles tendon injuries. He had attempted some marathons but had not finished until Grandma’s.

While he’s happy with the finish, Ondoro, 34, is still looking to improve over his next few races.

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“I was out of competition, so I was very happy, but I think the next race I will do better than this,” Ondoro said.

He’s hoping to get his marathon time under 2:07 in his coming races.

46TH ANNUAL GRANDMA'S MARATHON
More coverage from the 2022 Grandma's Marathon weekend in Duluth:
From the column: "I started crying. Instead of seeing these racers as strangers, I felt the way I would feel watching my own children starting the race."
What is it about Grandma’s that we find so inspiring?
A look back at Grandma's Marathon on Saturday from the viewpoint of an "official unofficial" spectator.
Minnesota runner, faster than ever, enjoys ‘best day ever.’
News Tribune photographers capture scenes from various areas of the race course.
A reduced field in 2021 due to COVID-19 led to fewer spectators along the course. Sold out races in 2022 brought people back to cheer on the runners and racers.
Fans with costumes and signs cheer on runners along Duluth's London Road.
Aaron Pike and Susannah Scaroni broke their own course records, with Pike fighting off a challenger at the finish line.
While the men's winner took a commanding lead early, the women's winner had to fight her way back up to the front.
Saturday morning's live coverage of the marathon in Duluth. For full stories, see duluthnewstribune.com/grandmas.

Saturday's race start was sunny and cool, with runners starting out on a 2:09 pace according to fourth-place finisher and four-time winner Elisha Barno.

“The weather was nice when we started the race,” Barno said. “The start of the race was very good and C.J. Albertson was very strong and pushing the pace.”

Barno’s time of 2:10:22 was 30 seconds better than Albertson’s fifth-place finish.

There was a large pack of leaders until about the 20-mile mark, but then Sammy Rotich, who won the Austin Marathon in February, and Ondoro broke away from the pack.

“I knew they were very strong guys, so I was hoping if I hung on until 30 to 35 kilometers, then something will happen,” Rotich said. “That’s actually what happened, because at 35 kilometers Ondoro pulled away with me, but after the hill I couldn’t maintain that pace and I let him go.”

8 men running a marathon on a road
Men's elite runners hit the midpoint of Grandma's Marathon on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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Rotich, 35, ultimately finished second with a personal best of 2:10:07, the time nearly two minutes better than his previous best at the 2008 Enschede Marathon in Netherlands.

That “hill” was Lemon Drop Hill, near 26th Avenue East, something Ondoro was prepared for but something Rotich — making his Grandma’s debut — had not experienced.

Rotich, running in just his fourth full marathon, said the second-place finish was a “big deal” for his career.

“I had done a lot of good long runs,” Rotich said. “So I told myself the only thing I need to do is maintain my own pace so that I can finish the race and watch my back. I kept watching my back a lot to make sure Elisha and none of the runners got close. I kept watching back a lot for the next 4 kilometers until we finished.”

Rotich said he and his coach are happy with his progress and hope he can go under 2:10 in one of his next races.

Related Topics: GRANDMA'S MARATHON
Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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