BEMIDJI -- Tom Ritchie traveled 2,991 miles so he could run 26.2 miles.
It’s a good thing he won.
Ritchie, now living in Anchorage, Alaska, returned to his hometown and took first place Saturday in the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon.
“I grew up here, and these are some of the roads I ran on as a kid,” he said. “I thought it would be really kind of special.”
Ritchie said he admires the beauty of the course, which basically runs around Lake Bemidji, with a little detour included, but said conditions were not exactly what he was hoping for, especially the wind.
“It’s a good course if you get the right conditions,” he said. “It was just a little too windy today.”
Coming into the race, Ritchie said he’d hoped to finish in two-and-a-half hours, but admitted some of the hills on the course slowed him a bit. He just missed his goal, finishing at 2:36:47, nearly 14 minutes ahead of the next runner.
Ritchie, 40, a physical education teacher in Anchorage, said he heard about last year’s inaugural Blue Ox Marathon and thought he’d like to give it a go.
“They put on a really good marathon. I recommend it,” he said. “I’ll recommend it to everybody I know.”
Ben Bruce finished second with a time of 2:50:44.
This Waubun native was happy with his performance, as he was on personal record pace at the halfway point, he said. The wind held him back down the stretch, he said, causing him to fall a few minutes behind his pace.
“(It was) just a great race, well-organized. . . great crowd support the whole way,” Bruce said.
James Manecke, Lengby, finished third at 3:08:16. Manecke was excited with his finish.
“I am ecstatic over this” he said. “I was in fourth place last year, so moving up to third place this year was kind of a bonus.”
He was even optimistic about the wind. “I didn’t mind it much. A little wind in the face on the way in helps you cool off,” he said at the finish line.
In Saturday’s 26K race at the Blue Ox, Chris Bowman of Minneapolis won the men’s division with a time of 1:51:31.
William Sackett of Grand Rapids finished second at 1:55:16, followed by Syl Lemelin of Winnipeg, who finished third with a time of 1:59:24.
The 26K, or the Loop the Lake, is a new race added this year, and is basically a run around Lake Bemidji and totals out at 16.1 miles.
In the half marathon race, Kenny Miller of Wadena took first with a time of 1:15:03.
David Lewis, Nevis, finished second at 1:20:23, followed by Bemidji’s Tyler Lange, who finished in 1:28:43.