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Ogden Marathon 2024: Eli White, Kayla Strong win top honors for full marathon

By BOB JUDSON - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 18, 2024
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Full Ogden Marathon women's winner Kayla Strong, of Woods Cross, raises her arms to cross the finish line on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in downtown Ogden.
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Full Ogden Marathon men's winner Eli White, of Salt Lake City, reaches for a medal after crossing the finish line on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in downtown Ogden.
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Ogden's Abigail Moran passes Farr Better Ice Cream on Grant Avenue during the half-marathon at the Ogden Marathon on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Ogden.
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Ogden Marathon half-marathon women's winner Michelle Kruse, of Twin Falls, Idaho, crosses the finish line with a smile on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in downtown Ogden.
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Ogden Marathon half-marathon men's winner Kody Gould, of Chubbuck, Idaho, gestures with his arms up as he crosses the finish line Saturday, May 18, 2024, in downtown Ogden.
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Runners on Grant Avenue pass by the Ogden Temple during the Ogden Marathon on Saturday, May 18, 2024.
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Full Ogden Marathon men's winner Eli White, of Salt Lake City, crosses the finish line on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in downtown Ogden.
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Runners on Grant Avenue close in on the finish line at the Ogden Marathon on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Ogden.
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People enjoy musical performances in the Ogden Amphitheater plaza during Ogden Marathon festivities Saturday, May 18, 2024.
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A close view of the 2024 Ogden Marathon participation medal on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Ogden.
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Carolina Flores, center, of Ogden, slaps hands with a spectator during the 5K run at the Ogden Marathon on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Ogden.
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Ogden Marathon runners near the finish line in downtown Ogden on Saturday, May 18, 2024.
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Eliza Albrecht, of Cedar City, participates in the half-marathon of the Ogden Marathon on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Ogden.
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Ogden Marathon runners hit the pavement Saturday, May 18, 2024, in downtown Ogden.
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A view of the Ogden Marathon finish line at Grant Avenue and 25th Street on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Ogden.
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People mingle at the Ogden Amphitheater Plaza during Ogden Marathon festivities Saturday, May 18, 2024, in downtown Ogden.
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People pet dogs at a booth for the Golden Bark Foundation in downtown Ogden as part of Ogden Marathon festivities on Saturday, May 18, 2024.
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Brad Daniels, of Sandy, gestures for the camera while running in the half-marathon at the Ogden Marathon on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Ogden.

OGDEN — Most normal, everyday people outside of the running world wonder about the sanity of those who choose to participate in a 26.2-mile marathon race.

Those same people would think that Eli White is crazy.

White has regularly trudged through ultra trail marathons (50K to 100 miles) since 2013 and decided to give the 23rd annual Ogden Marathon a try Saturday.

Smart choice for the 33-year-old from Salt Lake City, as he crossed the finish line at Historic 25th Street and Grant Avenue, ahead of the pack of some 1,247 entrants, with a time of 2:31:31.

“This is my first road marathon race. I’ve always been curious about running a road marathon, so I decided to switch it up,” White said. “My wife’s cousin got an entry and gave it to me because he wasn’t going to be able to run. I’m really grateful to him.”

White ran with a group of four that included Jack Leech, from Lantana, Texas and West Point harrier Porter Reddish for about half the race before things spread out.

Then it became a two-man race where White trailed before outmaneuvering Leech down the stretch, finally catching him at mile 25.

“When I got to the top of the canyon, I moved into second and could see him through some of the turns, but I wasn’t really sure I could catch him,” White said. “I was able to keep pace enough along the river path where it flattens out; he stopped for water at the last station … I don’t think he knew I was behind him.

“Once I caught him, I tried to surge and he tried to come with me but I was able to go fast enough to create a little bit of a gap,” White said.

At that point, adrenaline and a large contingent of observers on a bright, sunny day helped White overcome some physical ailments to take the winner’s tape. He averaged 5:47 per mile for the course.

“I was fighting off calf cramps on this last section,” White said. “It was pretty awesome running through the crowd here; there was so much energy. That definitely helped me through.”

In one of the closer races in recent memory, White nipped Leech, 22, who crossed the line just 15 seconds later with a time of 2:31:46.

Reddish, 29, placed third, coming in at 2:35:51.

The women’s marathon winner was Ogden native Kayla Strong, 35, who finished with a clocking of 2:50:32 — good enough for 11th among all competitors.

“I did think this morning like something is coming, but I didn’t want to let myself believe that; I’m superstitious. I don’t want to jinx anything,” Strong said. “I just thought I would do my best and today it worked.”

This is the 10th time Strong has run the Ogden Marathon — her first was at age 22 — and she had taken second place the last four years she had run it before breaking through Saturday.

“I think it depends on who shows up, honestly. I got lucky; it’s always a competitive field. I just happened to be the one,” Strong said humbly. “This is my dream. I feel like I fulfilled everything; I can quit running now.”

Strong’s time was about a minute off her personal record but she led all the way and never really got pushed by anyone.

“I slowed down and got comfortable. I was just trying to hold onto a lead,” Strong said. I stopped worrying about time and tried to savor it. My legs felt heavy coming down the chute at the end; I didn’t even know if I could walk across the finish. Thankfully, I made it.”

She averaged 6 minutes, 30 seconds per mile.

Jillian Turner, 25, of North Salt Lake, took second place with a time of 2:54:27 (21st overall) and Michaela Iacovelli, 29, from Salt Lake City was third, checking in at 2:57:01 (27th).

Kody Gould, 30, of Chubbuck, Idaho, placed first in the men’s half-marathon with a time of 1:13:15, among a field of 2,810 runners.

To each his own, but Gould decided to celebrate his sixth wedding anniversary, running a half-marathon for the first time, joining his wife who has done it on several occasions.

“My wife said it’s the best half-marathon she’s run. I’ve run a couple of other halfs and fulls, but this is my PR for a half-marathon,” Gould said. “I had a really good training cycle. I started a little later than I usually do, so I don’t think I got quite as fatigued as I have in the past. The course helped a lot too. It has a lot of smooth downhills and it keeps you going … people on the course cheering you on.

“At 3 miles I thought I was going to heave a little bit and toss my cookies, but other than that it was a pretty good day,” Gould said.

Gould averaged 5:35 per mile for the half-marathon.

Caleb Chase, 21, of Kaysville, finished second in the half-marathon, just 30 seconds back, with a time of 1:13:45 while Blake Maples, 23, of West Haven, was third at 1:14:05.

On the women’s side of the half marathon, Michelle Kruse, 30, of Twin Falls, Idaho, took home the prize, posting 1:21:44 for 6:14 per mile.

Like the Goulds, Kruse used the Ogden half-marathon to commemorate a special occasion.

“I just finished grad school a couple of weeks ago and thought now would be a good time to celebrate with a half-marathon,” Kruse said. “I was looking at half-marathons around this time frame, close to Twin Falls; Ogden is so pretty. I thought the great competition would push me.”

Kruse also ran her personal half-marathon best by more than a minute, placing 17th overall in the field, and has recently been active, traversing Salt Lake and St. George in recent months.

“I felt ready for this half. I ran the St. George Marathon last fall and had my PR the second half of that race,” Kruse said. “The weather was perfect today, and the course, too. It’s pretty straight forward; not a lot of turns.”

Kristen Orgill, 43, of Lehi, ran second in the half with a time of 1:22:53 (23rd overall), while Jackie Hoffman, 31, of Ogden, took home third at 1:24:07 (27th).

In the 12K, Graham Judkins (15, Plain City, 42:11) and Ashley Powell (38, Idaho Falls, 48:04) were top finishers.

In the 5K, top finishers were Caleb Baldwin (16, Hooper, 18:15) and Maylen Cooper (13, West Haven, 23:37).

This year, the Ogden Marathon included runners from 48 states and nine foreign countries, encompassing roughly 6,500 runners in all the events, including a 12K and a 5K race, under the umbrella of the GOAL (Get Out and Live) Foundation.

It takes more than 1,200 volunteer workers to stage the event, a monumental number behind the scenes for an even larger group of enthusiastic participants every year.

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