BRIDGTON – Just like the other 2,000 runners at the 37th annual Bridgton 4 on the Fourth road race, Moninda Marube of Auburn and Mary Pardi of Falmouth felt the effects of Thursday’s heat and maxed-out humidity.
But that didn’t mean anyone was going to catch these two experienced marathoners.
In his first appearance at the race, Marube won in 20 minutes, 27 seconds, comfortably ahead of just-graduated college runners Matt Rand of Cape Elizabeth and Tufts (20:59) and Craig Robinson of Scarborough and Bentley (21:30).
Marube took control from the start, stretching out a 20-second lead after running the first mile in 4:40.
“That didn’t go well because of the humid (conditions),” the 34-year-old Marube said. “After that I tried to adjust my pace to like five minutes a mile. I realized my target was not going to be met because I was targeting 19:30. Just too hot. “
Marube, a Kenyan, has won marathons in the United States and Europe. He holds the course record at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) International Marathon, which he won in 2010 and 2011.
“He was gone from the start,” Rand said. “I was hoping he might fall back but he never did. I was never really in contact with him.”
Rand was making his first race appearance since placing 12th at the NCAA Division III championships in the 10,000 meters in May. He said he’s focused on having a good showing at the upcoming Beach to Beacon.
“I want to be in the top five among Maine runners,” Rand said.
Finishing fourth was Thomas Ratcliffe, 15, of Carlisle, Mass., in 22:14, with John Vallo, 22, of Portland in fifth (22:16). Sixth went to top 50-and-over runner Peter Bottomley of Cape Elizabeth (22:19) with the defending race winner, recent Fryeburg Academy grad and Sunday Telegram Male Athlete of the Year Silas Eastman seventh (22:27)
Pardi was gunning for a sub-24 minute time and wasn’t far off with her winning 24:20, good for 20th overall.
The 43-year-old mother of two also showed she had the goods to beat a strong college challenger. Jenna Willett, 21, of Bethesda, Md., was second in 25:00. Bridget Gagne of Farmington, Conn. (25:21), Tammy Slusser of Monroeville, Pa. (25:38) and Cathleen Balantic of Philadelphia followed.
Willett was a Division III cross country All-American at Kenyon College last fall and came to Maine this summer to work as a counselor at Camp Forest Acres in Fryeburg, one of many summer camps that brought busloads of young runners.
Willett said she was happy to keep Pardi in her sights.
“It gave me someone to run toward,” she said.
Pardi quipped, “If she’d known I was old enough to be her mother, she would have tried to track me down.”
That wouldn’t have been easy. Pardi was within 39 seconds of qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon trials with a 2:43:39 in Philadelphia in 2011. She was the fourth-fastest masters and 37th female finisher at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“That’s something to aspire to. I want to be like you,” Willett said to Pardi.
Pardi chose the race as a tune-up for Beach to Beacon. Her top priority is trying to crack the new Olympic trials qualifying mark of 2:43:00 at the Twin Cities Marathon in October.
“This is all leading up to the Twin Cities,” Pardi said. “Had I run the tangents (in Philadelphia) I would have been fine. The (qualifying) window opens in August. I’ll try for the fall and if I don’t make it then I’ll definitely keep trying.”
A total of 2,011 runners and walkers finished. Among the masses were many groups. Some were noticeable by their red-white-and-blue outfits, others by summer camp T-shirts.
Gathered at the start were also a group of fit, crew-cut men wearing black shorts and black T-shirts. The choice of colors may not have been well suited to the heat but the 20-plus Maine Game Wardens know how to weather adverse conditions.
“We try to practice physical fitness the best we can,” Warden Aaron Cross, 27, of Belfast said. “We have a pretty fit force as a whole. We try to do quite a few adventure runs.”
Thirteen-year-old Henry “Moose” Howell of Bradenton, Fla., was one of the fastest campers. He’s a 10-year camper who posted personal-best time of 25:07 to finish 27th overall.
“It’s a great race. I love this race,” Howell said. “It’s a little different than Florida’s flat terrain.”
Andy Kates, 15, was the fastest camper in 24:51. Samantha Friborg, 13, was the girls’ fastest camp participant in 29:18.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: