Grandma’s Marathon men: Worku wins, but weather cools shot at record

Bazu Worku of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia celebrates as he approaches the finish line at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn. Saturday June 22, 2013. Worku won the race with a time of 2:11:14 (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Bazu Worku of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia celebrates as he approaches the finish line at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. Saturday June 22, 2013. Worku won the race with a time of 2:11:14 (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

A Grandma’s Marathon men’s course record was all but assured Saturday morning along the North Shore. Course record holder Dick Beardsley said it was a certainty. Not so fast.

The weather: 55 degrees, east wind, overcast, some fog.

The men’s field: one of the best assembled in the 37 years of Grandma’s Marathon.

A course record was all but assured Saturday morning along the North Shore.

Course record holder Dick Beardsley said it was a certainty.

Not so fast.

Overwhelming favorite Bazu Worku of Ethiopia said he never felt comfortable on a cold summer day in Duluth, yet was able to break away from a large pack over the final seven miles to win in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 14 seconds. It was the fourth-fastest time in race history but still 97 seconds from the all-time mark of 2:09:37 set on a nearly identical weather day in 1981.

“From the beginning it was hard. The weather made a difference,” Worku, in his first trip to Duluth, said through interpreter Ahmed Kemal, an Ethiopian attending St. Scholastica. “It was very cold and my body was just shivering. Even while warming up (at the start) I was cold.”

Worku won $12,000, including $2,000 for running sub-2:12. Former Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon winner Ernest Kebenei of Kenya was second in 2:11:46 for $9,500 and 19-year-old Kenyan Eliud Ngetich was third in 2:12:00 for $6,500.

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