It doesn’t matter the distance. Christine Hein and Tracy Guerrette excel in Portland.

The two Maine runners captured the Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon and Half Marathon championships Sunday.

Hein, who won the women’s marathon title, previously won the half. Guerrette, last year’s marathon winner, was the first female to cross the finish line in the half marathon – the first time she ran the race in more than five years.

Moses Gitau won the men’s marathon in his first attempt. And Stephen Njororge of Kenya claimed the men’s half marathon in a course-record time of 1 hour, 6 minutes, 33 seconds. He beat the record set by Jonny Wilson in 2016 by 5 seconds.

Hein, a North Yarmouth resident who works in the emergency room at Maine Medical Center, was the runner-up last year. She finished in 2:54.49, almost 3½ minutes ahead of the second-place finisher, Rebecca O’Hanley.

“At the beginning of the race I was trying to figure out where I was because a bunch of (half marathoners) were passing me,” said Hein. “I was (sometimes) looking at their bibs to see what race they were running.

“My coach and I had a good race plan and I stuck with it. If I saw anyone in front of me I didn’t worry.”

As it turned out Hein led for the entire 26.2 miles that started at Preble Street extension and Baxter Boulevard in Portland. The course followed Baxter Boulevard to Route 1 through Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth, then back to the starting line.

For Guerrette, a Bangor resident and St. Agatha native, her 1:19.07 was a little more than a minute faster than the second-place finisher.

“My good friend Leah Frost was behind me and keeping me honest,” said Guerrette, a former basketball player at the University of Maine.

Guerrette also had her training partner, Erik Knickerbocker, with her for the first 11 miles of her “training run” as she prepares for the California International Marathon on Dec. 2.

“It feels really good to win,” she said. “It was perfect weather (50 degrees at the start) with no wind and a great course.”

Gitau, the men’s marathon winner in 2:27.36, competed in the distance for just the second time. He won the OC Marathon in Newport Beach, California, in May.

Gitau, a Kenyan who was in the United States for only the second time, outsprinted Bryan Morseman at the tape for a one-second victory.

“I saw (Morseman) when we turned at the halfway point,” Gitau said. “I just tried to push but he wasn’t (slowing down).

“It was nice because there were a lot of people (on the course) encouraging me and telling me to push push, push.”

The Sole Mates team was the first relay team to finish, besting Unecome Lady Docs by 32 seconds.

NOT ONLY COMPETIVE RUNNERS

Not everyone was running for prize money, personal bests or qualifying times for more prestigious races.

Sixty-four recreational runners donned light blue shirts with gold lettering as part of the Maine Children’s Cancer Program team.

One of them was Bob Cochrane who “doesn’t consider himself as a runner.” But he knows completing 13.1 miles is nothing compared to what his 4-year-old son, Griffin, will endure as he battles Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

“On the course I am thinking if my son can go through all of the treatment he has in the past year (and will until Oct. 19, 2020) then I can race 13.1 miles,” the Windham resident said.

“It feels better to be part of something bigger than myself.”

As of Sunday, the MCCP runners have raised almost $34,000 – more than 90 percent of their goal – that funds research, family support and toys for the children.

Elise Moloney of Portland formerly worked in the philanthropy department for the children’s cancer program but still runs.

“It may sound cliche but we don’t run for ourselves, we run for the kids,” she said.

TRAINING OF A DIFFERENT KIND

Nine Army ROTC members from the University of Southern Maine took part in the half marathon, donned in camouflage and carrying 35 pounds on their back.

“On the standard Army ruck march we carry 35 pounds for 12 miles and have to finish in under three hours,” said Andrew Barthel. “We got short notice that we were doing this but we are all ideally prepared to do this at any time.”

Barthel said the ROTC has been doing this for years. It’s a great way to build camaraderie and get out in the community. He said with the holidays coming up, they will be out and about more with food drives and similar volunteering.

“People will come up to us (during the race) and ask us questions,” said Barthel. “This helps us feel like a part of the community, which is nice.”