PARKERSBURG - Despite humidity hovering near 100 percent during the 26th running of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon here Saturday morning, Julius Kogo and Alene Reta put on a quite a show for the fans on the course.
However, Kogo used a strong push coming up the hill on 13th Street to get separation from Reta and the Kenyan went on to capture his third successive crown by posting a winning time of 1 hour, 3 minutes and 36 seconds to claim the $3,000 top prize.
Reta, who missed last year's race because of injury, was more than happy to grab the $2,000 for his runner-up effort after clocking in at 1 hour, 4 minutes and 24 seconds.
"The humidity was very, too, too, high so we didn't push," said Kogo, who raced in a small pack early on that was led for the first two-plus miles by the eventual top United States finisher Josh Ordway.
Kenyan Julius Kogo breaks the tape to secure his third straight News and Sentinel Half Marathon title.
Holding the tape are News and Sentinel publisher Jim Spanner, left, and Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell.
"Today, we were too slow from last year because the humidity was too high."
By the time the runners reached mile 5, the small pack consisted of only Kogo, Reta and Dereje Woldegiorgis as Nicholas Kurgat had fallen back slightly off the pace. Kurgat, though, ended up finishing strong and posted a time of 1:05:59 to win $1,500 for third while Woldegiorgis got $1,000 for fourth with an effort of 1:06:36.
"It was good. I tried my best," said Reta, who won the News and Sentinel Half Marathon three times in a row from 2007-2009.
"One year I was injured with a stress fracture in my abductor muscle. One year I rest and I came back to run.
"Last week I was in South America half marathon. I raced to win. I ran my best. I am tired now running back to back. That's the problem."
Reta said of Kogo, "he's tough. He's tough. I tried to push after 9 miles, but my leg was scary and my abductor if I feel something I'll stop.
"I don't want to get injured like that again. Yeah, it's OK. That's racing. Everybody comes to win and I tried my best. I was off because I'm tired."
Kogo earned an extra $300 in 2011 when he broke his own course record with a time of 1:01:47.
Despite not setting a new course record again, Kogo was pleased overall.
He had just recently came from Kenya and had driven up from North Carolina on Friday.
"This one, I think, it was very tough for me because the humidity and the end of the day was very hard," noted Kogo, who along with Reta and Godfrey Kiprotich (1992, 1994-95) are the only three-time winners of the race.
"The hill, it (passing Reta for good) just kind of happened. We come together until there was about 1 to 2 miles left.
"At the hill I just kick up the hill and then I come from there to the finish line. It was still very tough for me, but I tell myself, let me do my thing to finish the hill then the remaining of it is easy."
Ordway, who won $1,000 for being the top U.S. runner, crossed the finish line in 1:08:05 while Ridge Robinson was runner-up. Robinson finished in 1:09:43 and was awarded $500.
"Going in I was hoping to be first," Robinson admitted. "It was my first time here and I've heard some horror stories. This was my fourth half marathon. That is the hilliest I've run.
"It's tough. Josh has a pretty good running resume and I'm working on getting back into my top fitness. I think I ran pretty well for the course."