CLEVELAND — First-time jitters were non-existent as Hinckley Township’s Cortney Staruch finished fifth at Sunday’s 36th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. The 2008 Highland graduate clocked 2 hours, 57 minutes and 45 seconds in her marathon debut.
“I didn’t know what to expect, so I’m very happy,” she said. “I definitely wanted to run 3:15 or under, but I was a little afraid in my heart to tell people I wanted to break 3 hours because I knew it was a lofty goal.
“I didn’t know I had that in me. I’m still kind of in shock. I’ve always been a mediocre runner running at Division I college. I was just another face in the crowd. I feel like today solidified my spot. I’m a real runner and I can do this. I’m excited to see where I can get in the next five years.”
Her sister, Kelly, turned in a good performance in the half marathon, taking sixth in 1:28:07. Last year, Kelly was seventh in the Rite Aid marathon in 3:10:44 under searing conditions.
But Cortney’s mark stole the show.
“The first half was pretty easy,” she said. “I was with the three-hour pace group up until mile No. 23 and then I started to go ahead on my own.”
Even Kelly, who has six marathons to her credit, was amazed.
“She said, ‘How did you do that?’” Cortney said. “I told her it was all mental. I believed I could do it and I did it. I didn’t let myself think one negative thought the entire race.
“Everyone warned me that the last 6 miles is where it gets real, once you get past the 20-mile mark it’s a whole different game. In my mind, I just broke down the last 6 miles like it’s any everyday run. When there was only 3 to go it was like a morning run, an easy run. That pulled me towards the end. Seeing my parents by the finish, some other friends and the crowd obviously was awesome.”
Like last year, the heat became a major challenge. Overcast skies cleared starting at about 9:30 a.m. — or 2½ hours into the marathon — with temperatures in the low 80s. Red flag warnings were issued like last year, but Cortney just hung in there and stayed well-hydrated throughout the race.
“I followed a 16-week training plan Kelly gave me that my sister had used before. She was kind of with me every step of the way,” said Cortney, an internist for dietetics at the Cleveland Clinic. “Everything went smoothly except for one week at the beginning of April. I hurt my foot after an 18-miler. I thought I had a stress fracture. I took a week off. I didn’t run one step and I iced it every single day and it cleared up on its own. I didn’t feel it one step today.”
Kelly was hoping for a better day but stayed optimistic about the fall season.
“Today didn’t go as well as planned. It was a little windy, a little bit of a headwind,” said Kelly, a speech therapist for Marymount Hospital. “Coming off the Shoreway there were some baby bump hills I didn’t run before. The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge (mile marker 11) was kind of hard. I had to scale back to the half because of my injuries but I’ve already signed up for the Air Force Marathon in the fall.”
Lodi’s Leo Kormanik II, 30, was a decisive winner in the men’s half (1:10:06). He outdistanced Magnolia’s Justin Baum, 27 (1:13:47).
“I was happy to win,” said Kormanik, a 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon. “I wanted to go after that course record (1:07:54), just had some blister issues and some shoe issues early on so I fell off pace around mile five or six. So I just kind of cruised it in from there.
“I’m kind of on the downfall. I’ve taken a couple weeks off. I just wanted to run this to come support Cleveland’s race. In terms of my training I’m probably the most out of shape I’ve been all year to be honest with you. I knew the half wasn’t super competitive so I just wanted to support the race. I wasn’t in good enough shape to run with the marathoners or the 10kers, that event is obviously a lot more competitive.”
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