Marc Narducci, Inquirer Staff Writer
Monday, November 18, 2013, 2:01 AM
Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2013, 8:21 AM
Irina Alexandrova of Russia was simply following in her agent’s footsteps.
Nearly a decade after her agent, Larisa Mikhaylova, won the women’s Philadelphia Marathon in 2004, the 33-year-old Alexandrova duplicated the feat in Sunday’s 20th annual event, which began and ended on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
It was the first Philadelphia Marathon for Alexandrova, whose winning time of 2 hours, 39 minutes, and 3.74 seconds was 1 minute, 6.58 seconds ahead of second-place Tezeta Dengersa.
The men’s winner, Abebe Mekuriya, was not only an initial Philadelphia Marathon participant, but he is on his first visit to the United States.
Mekuriya hails from Ethiopia and did not land in the United States for the first time until five days before the race.
Both winners earned the top prize of $3,500.
On a picture-perfect day for running, more than 30,000 participated in the half marathon and marathon. In light of the tragedy during the Boston Marathon, this one went off without any hitches.
“There was the proper security, the clear bags, making sure runners knew where they needed to be, and making sure fans knew what they could and couldn’t bring, and everybody was fully cooperative,” Mayor Nutter said.
According to Nutter, every state and 40 countries were represented in the race.
That diversity was shown in the winner’s circle.
With the guidance of her agent, Alexandrova was eager to compete in Philadelphia. Mikhaylova not only won the race in 2004, she finished second in each of the next two years.
Alexandrova “saw the elite field here and wanted to compete,” said Mikhaylova, who served as her runner’s translator.
Neither winner set a course record, which was the one bone of contention for the 30-year-old Mekuriya.
“He was very happy to win but he came here to set the course record,” said Abiyot Endale, who finished fifth in the race and served as his interpreter.
Mekuriya finished in 2:17:34.7. The course record was 2:16:47 set in 2003 by Joseph Nderitu.
The top runner with local roots was 24-year-old Nick Hilton, originally from Reading and now living in Flagstaff, Ariz. Hilton placed third with a time of 2:19:35.57 in his first marathon.
Hilton said the steeplechase was his main event while competing at Lock Haven University.
“I definitely wanted to do something special since this is the hometown thing, and coming here and finishing third meant the world to me,” Hilton said. “I had a lot of family and friends on the course, and the fans in Philadelphia are fantastic. There are a lot of passionate people so it made it great.”
As for the half marathon, both the men’s and women’s winners concluded a successful weekend by earning their second victories.
On Saturday, 25-year-old Rkia El Moukim won the women’s 8K race and 32-year-old Elijah Karanja captured the men’s 8K.
Both were the winners of Sunday’s half marathon, each claiming the $2,500 first prize.
Karanja won in a time of 1:02:58.19, which was 24.21 seconds ahead of runner-up Direba Yigezu. While that wasn’t enough to break the record of 1:02:29 set by Valentine Orare in 2006, El Moukim set the women’s record with her winning time of 1:10:52.97. That shattered the mark set last year by Misiker Mekionnin Demissie (1:11:57).
“I am a little tired,” said El Moukim, who trains in Morocco. “This was a nice course but a little hilly, but I had a great time here.”