Running in his first marathon Sunday morning, Langley multisport athlete Matt Simms surprised a field of more than 2,600 runners at the Seattle Marathon to place seventh overall.
Simm’s finish, the highest ever by a South Whidbey runner at the Seattle race, was one of several top placings by a crowd of 15 island athletes who invaded both the 26.2-mile event and the 13.1-mile half marathon run the same day.
Part of a pack of three runners that held third, fourth and fifth places through 20 miles, Simms said he was pleased to be so competitive after months of training. Unfortunately, the last 6.2 miles of the race — which included a number of big hills — took the fight out of his legs. On a 6-minute mile pace to that point, he suddenly found himself in the race for survival.
“There is such a difference between 20 miles and 26.2 miles,” Simms said.
His finish time of 2 hours, 40 minutes and 48 seconds was miles behind the 2:24:37 clocked by race winner Uli Steidle of Seattle.
An experienced triathlete who placed in the top five at the Whidbey Island Triathlon last summer, Simms said he has no illusions about becoming a marathon champion. He said he wants to do another to prove to himself he can conquer the full distance, but he won’t make a career of it.
“It was exciting to be up there,” he said.
Another South Whidbey runner who finished the race in less than three hours was Curt Gordon. Though the 44-year-old placed 36th overall in 2:59:52, he just barely placed in the top five of his age group in a race dominated by 30 and 40-somethings.
Further back, Whidbey Triathlon champion Peter Oakley posted a strong, 3:13:09 time as he crossed the finish line in 90th place.
In the half marathon, Clinton’s Marti Reiss was the class of South Whidbey. Churning out a 1:31:11, Reiss was 10th out of 2,180 women in the 13.1-mile run. A few places ahead of her, Clinton runner Charlie LeWarne was the top South Whidbey man in the race. He placed 25th on a 1:21:22 run.
All the top South Whidbey finishers at the race are members of the South Whidbey Endurance Athletic Team. They ran together through the fall to prepare for the marathon. Simms said the group will continue training for next year’s running and triathlon seasons.