Ogden Marathon 2023: Riley Cook repeats, 3 first-time runners claim crowns on warm, sunny day
OGDEN — While most resultants of the 22nd Ogden Marathon put on a fresh face Saturday, one thing remained famously familiar.
Forty-two-year-old Riley Cook won the men’s race.
For the fourth straight year, and fifth in his last six outings, Cook took home to South Weber the top prize, finishing at 2:22:46 over the 26.2-mile course, his second-fastest time in the marquee event.
The winners of the women’s marathon, and the men’s and women’s half marathons, all were first-time champions in their initial forays to an event that wraps up at Historic 25th Street and Grant Avenue.
Each marathon has quirks and is unique in its own way, and this one was no different for Cook.
“The first 8 miles were pretty rough. My stomach was bugging me, my calf was bugging me. I needed to go to the bathroom,” Cook said. “Then it all kind of settled down and I was able to get into a rhythm pretty well.”
He finished within a minute of his course record and was ahead of that pace the first half of the race, despite his travails.
“There was a guy who went out a lot faster than I planned, so I ended up going a little faster than I wanted to. I didn’t want too big of a gap, just in case,” Cook said. “Then I caught him at mile five and felt pretty good down the canyon.”
Cook averaged 5:27 per mile and knew what he had to do if he wanted to break his record set in 2018, almost to the millimeter.
“I was below (the record) at the half and was clipping off a few 5:20s or lower but toward the end, I ran a couple of 5:40s which is too slow to do it,” Cook said. “The last 2 miles were pretty slow; I lost quite a bit.”
An interesting thing that happens later in the race is that Cook and other top runners start to lap the half marathoners, which presents its own set of challenges.
“It’s harder to get water because there are so many half-marathoners and you have to maneuver around them and can’t get to it,” Cook said. “I started to feel it. I was hurting those last 2 miles, got dehydrated and hit the wall a little … still held on. I just needed more water intake, but I’m happy with it.”
In one of the tighter races in recent years, 27-year-old Stephen Biebelhhausen of Akron, Ohio, finished with a time of 2:23:20, for second place.
“I didn’t know he was that close. He ran a really good race. He must have been closing pretty good because at the dam, I didn’t see anyone behind me. He must have run well that second half,” Cook said.
Glen Shumaker, 27 from Boulder, Colorado, ran third, posting a time of 2:38:03.
On the women’s side, 41-year-old Kara Roper, of Grand Junction, Colorado, (and formerly of Smithfield, Utah) took first place with a time of 2:47:25 (good for 10th overall) in her maiden effort at the Ogden Marathon.
“This is my first time on this marathon; I think it’s my 24th full marathon. I grew up in Utah, so it’s familiar territory,” Roper said. “I like to do a spring marathon, typically at sea level, but that wasn’t an option with my schedule this year so I went for a course that had a little bit of downhill love, to compensate for the elevation.”
Both Cook and Roper still seem to be in their prime through more than four decades of life.
“I’m just getting better, for a little while. I know my window will be closing, but I think a lot of women should feel encouraged; I’ve had two babies and only gotten faster,” Roper said. “Just stick with it. Age is just a number. There’s really no limit to keep going.”
The Ogden Marathon has been known to have difficult weather woes but that was not the case Saturday, with comfortable conditions throughout the morning.
However, sometimes the human element takes center stage.
“It felt decent. I had a few ups and downs. Around the halfway point, I was worried I might be in trouble, was feeling a little off,” Roper said. “My kids kind of get sick right before big races, so I’m always nervous I’m going to have a stomach bug or something on race day. I stuck to my plan and tried to relax in those flatter, rolling miles and to stay strong out there.”
Roper did the best she could in an unfamiliar venue but said there was more to be done.
“I can look at the map, study and train for it, but there’s only so much you can do until you really feel it. There’s some improvement that can happen if all the variables line up,” she said. “My best time (in a marathon) is 2:46:22, so I wasn’t too far off of that. I would like to have beaten it. I just didn’t know how the course would be. I think on my best day, I could have shaved a few more minutes off the time.”
Continuing an impressive showing for the women, Kayla Strong, 34 of Woods Cross, finished second among women and 11th overall with a time of 2:49:39. Paige Nelson, 34 of Alpine, ran 2:51:19, third for the women and 14th among all competitors.
The first man across the line for the half marathon: Braden Perry, 30 of Ogden, and also a new entrant in the race, with a time of 1:11:46.
“I ran at Weber State, took some time off and just starting back into it,” Perry said. “During the track season in high school and college, there’s always a meet or something and it didn’t align with my training, so I finally got the opportunity to do it.”
The Ogden Marathon also has the deserved reputation as one of the more picturesque track layouts in the world.
“It’s a beautiful course. I really enjoyed the downhill portion through the canyon. The river was flowing fast. I love the waterfalls, love the scenery,” Perry said. “It got a little hot towards the end, but it was a great event. This was not my fastest time in the half, but I ran a few months ago in Moab and this is quicker, so I’m making progress.”
Asher Bowen, 18 of Farr West, was second with a time of 1:14:07. Provo’s Chris Barrientos, age 22, ran 1:15:12 to take third place.
For the women, Bailey Winter, 24 from Ogden, was yet another first-time racer who captured a crown, coming in at 1:16:59. She placed first in the women’s half marathon, seventh overall.
“I’ve never run an actual half marathon before. I run for Weber State and the farthest we go is 10K,” Winter said. “Our season was kind of cut short with all the snow and ‘I thought why not. I needed another race, so I’ll do Ogden half and see what I can do.’
“I felt strong almost the whole way. At 8 miles, I could feel my legs a little bit, but kept pushing every mile,” Winter added. “It wasn’t until the last two that I hurt; having everyone cheering … I kept trying to focus to the end.”
Abby Lawrence, 24 of Kaysville, ran second with a time of 1:21:07 (11th overall), while 33-year-old Jessie Parker, from Farr West, finished 12th overall, clocking 1:21:37.
In the end, it was Riley Cook’s coronation once again but for those looking for a chink in his armor, maybe he actually showed he was human.
“My calf cramped up big time in mile six. It really scared me. I’ve never had that happen before,” Cook said. “I thought I might have to drop out early in the race. It kind of loosened up, but there was a knot there the entire time. The pressure mounts each year.”
After all, he will be 43 when the next race rolls around.
MEN’S 12K: Graham Judkins, 14, Plain City, 44:18
WOMEN’S 12K: Rachael Wright, 30, Syracuse, 57:05
MEN’S 5K: Daniel Mongaga, 20, Murray, 17:20
WOMEN’S 5K: Halle Combe, 12, Newbury Park CA, 22:55