PORTLAND – Kristin Barry awoke to raindrops and text messages.
Is the marathon rain or shine?
As both a runner and a coach, Barry had dual responsibilities Sunday morning at the 20th Maine Marathon and Half Marathon. She took care of the former by zipping to a four-minute victory in the half marathon with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 27 seconds.
After changing into warm clothes, she joined the boys she coaches on the Cheverus High cross country team at a volunteer water stop along the 26.2-mile marathon course, which stretches north from Portland’s Back Cove to Route 88 through Falmouth and Cumberland to Yarmouth before looping back upon itself.
“I wasn’t excited about (the race),” admitted Barry, 37, who set a course record of 1:17:53 two years ago. “Conditions weren’t helpful. It was windy. It was rainy. Just raw and yucky.”
And yet, Barry told herself, it could be April. She could be wondering about the outcome of knee surgery while watching her friend and training partner Sheri Piers run the Boston Marathon. There were tears and doubts and “thinking I might never run again,” Barry said.
She had learned in August what can happen when creeping doubt is allowed to flourish. At a surprisingly humid Beach to Beacon 10K, Barry temporarily dropped out of the race before finishing in a funk.
“I just went to a very negative place in my head,” Barry said. On Sunday, “I tried to avoid that completely.”
Men’s half marathon winner Andrew Combs shared no such worries Sunday after winning his race in 1:09:20, more than a minute ahead of runner-up Chris Harmon of Scarborough (1:10:40) and Rob Gomez of Saco (1:10:55).
“It’s kind of fun to come back and run,” said Combs, a 2006 Bowdoin graduate who grew up in Philadelphia and currently attends Columbia Business School in New York City, “to get to see some friends, have a good time and get a little wet.”
Evan Graves, 30, of Caribou and Stephanie Crawford, 34, of Dover, N.H., won the men’s and women’s marathon races, in 2:36:53 and 3:07:08, respectively.
Gretchen Speed, 30, of Brookline, Mass., was runner-up in the half behind Barry, followed by South Portland High graduate Andrea Giddings, who by three seconds held off Joan Benoit Samuelson to take third in 1:25:28.
“I didn’t know she was behind me until the end,” said Giddings, 26, who needed a strong finishing kick to keep the 54-year-old Samuelson at bay.
Giddings said she was positively giddy when she awoke to gray clouds and steady rain. After her 2008 graduation from Middlebury College, she hadn’t run seriously until she resumed training in August with co-workers at the Leadership School at Kieve in Nobleboro.
“It’s nice having a team to train with,” she said. “That’s why I got back into it.”
The raindrops were a bonus.
“It’s great,” she said. “It feels more intense. I like that. It keeps my mind in it more.”
VOLUNTEERS IN the medical tent didn’t have to worry about ice baths Sunday with all the downpour and temperatures in the low 50s.
“Definitely not a day for overheating,” said Dr. John Hatzenbuehler, the event’s medical director. “Most people actually feel better when it’s colder. Until it’s over, then they’re joints get a little more sore and cramp up.”
Hatzenbuehler said Sunday’s biggest headache was friction injuries such as blistering. “They get wet and they slide around a little more,” he said. “Overall, it’s usually not as severe, except for being miserable.”
One fear thankfully not realized Sunday was lightning from potential thunderstorms. In such a case, Hatzenbuehler said, “it’s recommended to clear the course. Not cancel the race. But get people off the course to protect them until the lightning goes away and then resume.”
BARRY HEARD not only from her Cheverus runners Sunday morning, but also from Piers, who reported the kind of spectacular autumn weather in Minneapolis usually associated with the Maine Marathon.
“She probably just ran two halves faster than I did one,” predicted Barry, correctly, as it turned out.
Indeed, Piers, 40, was the seventh woman and first female master runner to finish the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, in a time of 2:37:43. Her splits were 1:19:13 and 1:18:30.
WOMEN’S MARATHON runner-up Laura Hutchinson, 29, is a nutrition professor at Holyoke (Mass.) Community College. So what did she eat Sunday? Before the race, a banana and some toast with peanut butter. During the race, three energy gel packets, one every 6 1/2 miles.
DON WRIGHT of Minnesota completed his 56th marathon and first in Maine on Sunday in a little over six hours.
Wright, 70, was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer eight years ago and lately has been slowed by a sports hernia.
“The day wasn’t perfect,” Wright said. “We’d call it ducky weather. But it went well.”
BEST HOMEMADE sign seen near the finish line Sunday belonged to 18-year-old Lauren Young of Anson, who was cheering on her friend Sikwani Dana of Solon and Dana’s parents, Lori and Barry.
Upon a background of green, Young used paint and glitter to spell out the following message:
The Zombies Want Your Brains
“I just thought she’d get a kick out of it,” Young said, “because she likes zombies.”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: