PORTLAND – He still trains near his alma mater, the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, but Nick Wheeler always enjoys a chance to run in Portland.

“I love running these roads,” Wheeler said after winning the men’s half marathon race, part of the Maine Marathon competitions on Sunday.

Wheeler, 24, broke free after four miles and coasted to an easy victory in 1:09:16. Michael Bunker of Rockland was second (1:12:43).

Wheeler came to USM from Derby, Vt., and became one of the top runners for the Huskies. He won the 5,000-meter race in the ECAC Division III championship in 2008.

While Wheeler lives in Maine, the women’s half marathon winner was just visiting with her husband, Matt. Katherine Marshall, 29, flew in from Bellaire, Texas, to visit family, and race.

“We strategically plan our vacations around races,” Marshall said. She called Portland a great city, and praised the weather.

“Coming into cold weather from Texas, it feels so good. You can actually breath,” said Marshall, who won in 1:23:39.

Andrea Newton, 25, of Portland, finished second in 1:26:49. North Yarmouth’s Martha Leggat, 42, finished third (1:28.32).

WEARING HIS old Thornton Academy jersey, Shawn Rumery heard a few cheers while running the half marathon.

“It’s nice when you run in Maine because everyone recognizes (the jersey). They yell ‘Way to go, TA.’ I guess they think I’m still in high school,” he said. “But to be honest, this is the only jersey I have.”

Rumery, 24, graduated from Thornton in ’04, but could pass for a teen. He placed third in 1:14:02.

After high school, Rumery ran for Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. he spent last year in Poland, at the University of Economics in Wroclaw, serving as a director of activities, an English teacher and running coach.

Rumery came home to Dayton in July. He soon leaves for Chicago to begin preparing for the law school admission test. He’ll bring his jersey with him.

FINISHING YOUR first marathon is always an accomplishment. For Greg Brown, 48, it was the rebirth of a healthy lifestyle. Brown ran cross country for Scarborough High in the late 1970s and then hung up his training shoes.

“That was pretty much the last time I ran,” Brown said. “My son (Zachary) runs for Scarborough now and, three years ago, I just got inspired by the kids.”

Brown began to run again and also quit smoking, finally kicking the habit 11 months ago. After a series of 5K races, he began training for the marathon.

“It actually went really well,” Brown said. “I probably went out too fast. Mile 15, I hit the wall and was done. I ended up walking and running. I ended in 4 hours, 8 minutes. I was happy with it.”

THE LARGEST spontaneous applause came when Shawn McCarthy and girlfriend Christina Baker finished the half marathon. Baker got a medal around her neck and turned to see McCarthy holding out an engagement ring. First came the yes, then the kiss and the cheers.

They are from Grafton, Mass., but McCarthy said he picked this time to pop the question because family was present. Baker’s grandmother, Margaret Baker, lives in Freeport.

Wasn’t McCarthy nervous while he ran the race?

“I was worried about my legs,” he said. “I just wanted to make it to the end.”

FORMER SEA DOGS catcher John Nathans was among the marathon runners, along with his wife, Kate. Nathans, 31, still suffers from headaches, hearing loss and problems with balance, as a result being struck in the head with a bat by Jose Offerman in an independent league game three years ago.

Nathans, a Maine law student, says running can be complicated. “But hey,” he said, “you got to keep going.” He finished in 4:24:54, 10 minutes better than last year.

LEADING A GROUP of four runners from Archangel, Russia, was Valery Slastilin, 53, who finished in 3:28.49. The group was visiting as part of Portland’s sister-city exchange with Archangel, a city 700 miles north of Moscow.

IN WHAT has become an inspiring tradition in this race, a group of service members, including members of the Maine Army National Guard, completed the marathon course in a “ruck-march,” while carrying a full, 30-pound military backpack. The march is to honor those Maine service members — now numbering 66 — who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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