Quebec’s Couillard surges near end of Mohawk-Hudson

By Jeff Foley

Special to the Times Union


ALBANY – A pair of local athletes set the tone for much of Sunday’s Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon, but Canadian Michel Couillard applied the finishing touches. The 38-year-old veterinarian claimed the lead in the 22nd mile of the 26.2 mile race and won in 2 hours 30 minutes and 15 seconds.

            While Chuck Terry and Bob Irwin, both members of the Albany-based Willow Street Athletic club, ran a gutsy first half together (1:14:30), Couillard was 52 seconds behind.

            “I was running on pace,” said Couillard, who ran with a pace chart taped around his wrist. “I wanted to hit each mile within my time.”

            Terry, 23, meanwhile, was running his first marathon. Coming off a summer racing season that saw him run several sub-15:00 5Ks, he edged away from Irwin around the halfway mark and ran alone until the finish was just four miles away.

            The race, which started in Schenedtady’s Central Park, finished at the end of the Corning Preserve.

            “Going into Watervliet, I wasn’t sure how big a lead I had,” Terry said. “I thought I couldhave it, but I was running so slow that I knew somebody would catch me by the end.”

            After passing Irwin 20 miles into the race, Couillard quickly went by Terry. Last year’s third-place finisher, Couillard ran the final 10 kilometers in about 36 minutes and set a personal best by eight minutes.

            “I’m improving every year,” Couillard said, “Like wine, I guess.”

            After running in fourth for much of the race, Connecticut’s Duncan Larkin claimed second in 2:32:32.

            When asked at mile 20 if he wanted water or a sports drink, Irwin jokingly replied, “a stretcher.” But he rebounded to take third in 2:34:22, a personal record by 20 minutes. Terry hung on for fourth (2:38:34).

            “If I could go back, I wouldn’t have pushed the first half so hard,” Terry said. “People had warned me about that. It’s such a long race that anything can happen.”

            Albany’s Megan Leitzinger, a four-time runner-up in the race, led from Schenectady to Albany for the women. She didn’t break the three-hour mark as she’d hoped – she finished in 3:03:27 – but she finally crossed the line first.

            “It felt good to get the win,” said Leitzinger, who is 38. She ran her fastest marathon (3:00:22) at the race in 2003. “But I can’t help but be a little disappointed that once again I missed my three-hour goal. I have a few more good years left in me.”

            As if to emphasize that sentiment, 46-year-old Nancy Taormina was the second women (3:06:33).

            “When it comes to marathons,“ Taormina said, “if you can stay injury free, you get better as you get older.”