Taking runners to school

A 26-year-old teacher from Denton, Texas, defended his title in the San Francisco Marathon, finishing the 26.2 mile race in 2 hours, 25 minutes and 57 seconds.

Andrew Cook improved his 2006 time by 49 seconds and was the first of an estimated 17,000 runners to cross the finish line on a day that also featured two half marathon courses, a 5K run/walk and a progressive marathon.

Cook was pleased with his performance despite being far off his personal record of 2:19:48.

“It’s a tough course,” Cook said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be flying.”

Despite the course’s consistent hills, steep declines and nasty winds, female winner Yolanda Flamino of Rochester Hills, Mich., posted a new personal record, 2:43:41, in what was only her second marathon.

Flamino said the San Francisco Marathon fit in well with her training for the upcoming U.S. women’s Olympic marathon trials.

Two Bay Area locals, Chikara Omine of San Francisco and Chloe Glare of Menlo Park, were among the race’s top finishers. Omine, 24, took fifth place in the men’s competition with 2:37:56 and Glare, 26, was the second female finisher, posting 2:57:21.

Glare was declared the second place winner though Alexandra Wolfe crossed the finish line before her. Wolfe inadvertently took a wrong turn in Golden Gate Park, cutting out an estimated three miles of the course.

Though he acknowledged the mix up as unfortunate, Mark Winitz, media coordinator for the event, said, “USA Track and Field rules say runners areresponsible for knowing the course.”

Two of the race’s more prominent runners, Linda Somers Smith, a 2006 U.S. Olympic Team member and Julia Mallon (formerly Julia Stamps), a former Santa Rosa High School and Stanford University standout, saw the event as good preparation for upcoming races.

“[The course] is hilly so it’s great for training,” said Somers Smith, 46, who won the women’s elite half marathon in 1:18:21. She ran the half marathon distance to help her prepare for the Chicago Marathon, where she hopes to qualify for her sixth U.S. women’s Olympic marathon trials.

Mallon, 28, who was last year’s top female finisher in the full marathon, also opted to run 13.1 miles to prepare for Chicago. She placed fourth with 1:20:24.

Comments about the course’s difficulty were as common as the sweat dripping down runners’ faces. Racing across the Golden Gate Bridge, a novelty that contributes to the popularity of the event, proved problematic for many.

“Running across the bridge is actually pretty challenging,” said Cook. “The wind whips across it. It comes in at all angles.”

“It was really pretty foggy,” said Flamino. “You couldn’t see the pillars in front of you — it was surreal.”

Top five finishers

<p>MEN

1) Andrew Cook 2:25:57

2) Michael Wardian 2:28:50

3) Justin Zanotti 2:32:15

4) Mike Moore 2:32:49

5) Chikara Omine 2:37:56

WOMEN

1) Yolanda Flamino 2:43:41

2) Chloe Glare 2:57:21

3) Alyssa Shaw 3:08:14

4) Jennifer Donnelly 3:12:10

5) Amanda Frances Burrill 3:13:15

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