By Matt Breen
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
On a day that was lauded for its optimal running conditions, two runners collapsed and died near the finish of Sunday morning's Philadelphia Marathon. In a statement, event organizers said they could not disclose the identities of the runners and will provide more information as it becomes available.
Police department spokesperson Jillian Russell said in an e-mail that a 21-year old Asian male collapsed near the finish line at 22nd Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway and a 40-year old white male collapsed a quarter mile away from the finish.
The victims were taken to Hahnemann Hospital and pronouced dead due to apparent heart attacks, according to Russell.
According to a source, the 21-year-old male is Jeffrey Lee, a California native. Mr. Lee was a senior nursing and business student at The University of Pennslyvania.
According to the event's website, Lee finished the half-marathon in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 10 seconds. He had a pace of 9:02 and finished the first 10 kilometers in 53:45.
Lee attended Whitney High School in Cerritos, Calif.
"We are deeply saddened and our thoughts are with their families and friends," said the event's statement.
With a brilliant performance, Mariska Kramer turned Sunday's Philadelphia Marathon into her own personal training session.
She separated herself from the pack quickly, battled the winds near the Delaware River and the hills by Girard Avenue to finish the race in a sparkling 2 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds to become the first back-to-back first place finisher in the event's 18-year history.
Kramer, a 37-year-old native of the Netherlands, finished nearly nine minutes better than the pack that she left behind, as she ran the majority of the course without needing to fight off any competition.
"I don't care, I work out all the time by my own," said Kramer. "It doesn't matter to me. It's nice to have some competition, so that keeps you focused. But, I don't necessarily need it."
Before becoming a marathon runner, Kramer had a career in triathlons. She said that running was always her strength in those events, which made the transition to marathons seamless.
Finishing in second place in the women's division was 31-year-old Tezeta Dengersa of Massachusetts at 2:44:05, followed 4 seconds behind by 35-year-old Jodie Conway of Bryn Mawr.
Folisho Tuko of Ethopia captured the men's title with a time of 2:19:14 as he held off a late surge by Central Pa. native Kevin Pool. Tuko, 25, trains in upstate New York and said through a translator that he was surprised with the hills on the course but was able to recover quickly.
"I think the course was good, but I had a little difficulty," said Tuko through Alem Kahsay.
Pool now trains in Napa Valley and he said the timing of the marathon allows him to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Greenville, Pa. The 28-year-old finished the course in 2:19:37, which was 3 seconds shy of his personal best. It was the first time he had run in Philadelphia.
"I especially liked all the support here at the end as I was chasing the leader," said Pool. "Everyone was yelling for me. It was really cool."
Samuel Ndereba won the morning's half marathon in 1:04:05, followed 18 seconds behind by John Itati. It was the second straight day the two finished in that order as they placed the same in Saturday's 8K race. Yihunlish Delelcha captured the women's half marathon in 1:12:43.
Not all the runners were caught off guard by the hills on a course billed as a flat surface. 49-year old Mark Sullivan completed the Marathon for the 18th straight year, as he's finished each race since its inception in 1994. At the race's expo over the weekend, Sullivan stood by the course map and warned runners about the hills near the Zoo and how to prepare for them.
"There's some other urban marathons that aren't set up to be so runner friendly and spectator friendly ," said Sullivan, who finished the marathon in 2:47:45. "This is the combination of both."