PORTLAND – His biggest backer rode a bike along the race course. Hers waited patiently near Back Cove at the end of two leashes.
When the warm and blustery 83rd edition of Maine’s oldest road race finally reached its conclusion Sunday in front of the Boys & Girls Clubs on Cumberland Avenue, Moninda Marube of Auburn and Meredith Freimer of Portland were champions of the Patriots Day 5-Miler.
Marube, 33, has won marathons in several countries, and since January has been living in Maine with the family of Edward Little cross country coach Dan Campbell.
They met at a marathon in California and, when Campbell learned of Marube’s less-than-ideal living situation with non-running friends in Texas, the high school coach offered the Kenyan a bus ticket to Maine and a room at his home on Buttercup Circle.
“He was coaching himself,” Campbell said. “He was lost for direction.”
Campbell said Marube has become something of a role model for African refugees in the Lewiston-Auburn area and plans are in the works for a summer running program.
“He wants to give back,” Campbell said. “The people there look up to him.”
Since he defended his title in that Santa Barbara marathon in November, Marube has raced twice. The first was a half marathon in Brunswick last weekend. He won by more than 11 minutes in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 3 seconds.
On Sunday in Portland, he was looking not for the $175 first-place prize money but a certain time (24:10) that would confirm his marathon training is on track.
Instead, a strained calf muscle after two miles prompted him to coast through the final three, although he still won by more than a minute in 25:14.
“For me, winning comes as a blessing,” he said. “But what I was looking for was time, which I didn’t get, so I kind of leave a disappointed person. … My leg is still tense.”
Yarmouth native Pat Tarpy owns the course record of 23:35, set in 2010.
Marube is the race’s first African winner and the sixth different winner in the past six years.
Clayton Conrad, 29, of North Yarmouth was second in 26:18, and Judson Cake, 24, of Bar Harbor third in 26:20. Second and third were worth $75 and $50, respectively.
Freimer, 32, also won in Brunswick last weekend and is the defending Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5K champion. She said she’s usually not the first woman across the line.
“There’s some very speedy women in this area, so I come a little bit farther behind,” she said, “which is great because I have someone to chase after.”
The fourth different women’s winner in four years, Freimer completed the course in 31:30. Runner-up Erzie Nagy of Albion is a 17-year-old junior at Lawrence High School and finished in 31:55. Kristine Guaraldo of Brewer was third in 32:24.
Kristin Barry set the course record of 27:57 in 2010.
Freimer said she went out a little fast, but was never passed by another woman and got a boost along Baxter Boulevard while running past her fiance and her two dogs, a boxer named Bugs and a springer spaniel named Tybee.
They occasionally join her on the trails, and inevitably she finds herself pulling the springer while holding back the boxer.
“They’re not great training partners,” she said. “It’s a fun way to get in a run, but it’s not really running because they stop to sniff and to, um, go.”
Out of 468 who registered, 407 runners completed the course, which loops around Back Cove and returns to downtown Portland via Tukey’s Bridge.
Oh, about that name. Tybee is adopted from Louisiana.
“And my mom thought that Tybee was a place in Louisiana,” Freimer said. “She watches the Weather Channel, so I totally trusted her. Then of course, I looked it up, and it has nothing to do with Louisiana.”
Turns out Tybee is both an island and a city in Georgia.
“But the name was so cute,” Freimer said, “I couldn’t (give it up).”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be reached at 791-6425 or at: