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SF Marathon a ‘warmup’ for ultra-endurance pair

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An ultimate destination for many runners, next Sunday’s San Francisco Marathon is a stop along the journey for one ultra-couple.

Devon Crosby-Helms has her sights set on September’s 100-kilometer World Championships in the Netherlands.

“This is a warmup,” Crosby-Helms said from the Cole Valley flat she shares with fellow endurance runner and boyfriend Nathan Yanko. “Running a marathon before a 100K is a good test of fitness.”

Both 29-year-olds have each won 100-mile races; they took slightly more than 18½ hours to complete their feats of ultra-endurance. Crosby-Helms crossed the wire in Vermont in 2008, with Yanko winning the following year at the Headlands 100 in Marin County.

Crosby-Helms is also the reigning women’s 50-mile national champion.

“You’re done the same day,” said Crosby-Helms of why she prefers the half-hundred. “It’s a distance I can run hard and fast.”

In December 2009, two months after the couple began dating, they were the top male and female finishers in Marin’s Rodeo Beach 50K.

“We got matching mugs,” Crosby-Helms recalled saying to her boyfriend as they embraced at the finish line.

The couple has much in common beyond their respective ultra-running prowess and the fact that they both sport turtle tattoos. Each works in culinary arts, Crosby-Helms as a personal chef and Yanko as a master baker for Tartine in The City.

Another commonality: Competitive running was not their original athletic choices. Crosby-Helms was a nationally ranked Top 25 shooting guard out of high school in Seattle and played basketball briefly at Fresno State. As a high school freshman in Akron, Ohio, Yanko was cut from the golf team and decided to try cross country.

“The first practice I ran the entire thing in basketball shoes and absolutely loved it,” Yanko said. “It was a good way to get into the woods all day.”

Yanko’s first marathon experience was as a high school sophomore; his next 26.3-miler was nine years later, the 2007 San Francisco Marathon. He did well, considering he ran with a broken arm, finishing third in his age group, 10th among all men, and 11th overall with a time of 2 hours, 52 minutes.

The following year, Yanko won the Humboldt Redwoods Marathon in 2:43. He has since cut his time further, recently posting a personal record 2:33 with a third-place finish in the Napa Marathon.

No surprise — Crosby-Helms has also won a marathon, the 2008 Breakers in Providence, R.I. She finished the race in 2:58 despite going off course for a mile. No worries, though, as the longer the distance, the greater the advantage for an ultra-athlete.


SF Marathon

WHEN: July 31, first wave starts at 5:30 a.m.

WHERE: Starts and finishes on the Embarcadero, near the Ferry Building

EVENTS: Full marathon, half marathons, 5k and progressive marathon, munchkin kids run

INFO: www.thesfmarathon.com

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