Memorial Marathon notebook: Rain vaults Mindi Pukstas to win

BY RYAN ABER, ED GODFREY and ROBERT PRZYBYLO, Staff Writers Published: May 1, 2011
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Mindi Pukstas expected to go into Sunday's Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon trying for a Guinness World Record.

Pukstas was going to push his 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Gabija, in a stroller.

But the rain kept Gabija on the sidelines and her father won the men's marathon in 2:31.33.

Pukstas was an All-American runner at Oklahoma State in 2003, placing 11th in the country that season.

Two years ago, Zac Freudenburg set the record for finishing a marathon while pushing a stroller in 2:32.10 at The Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa.

“It was a good decision,” Pukstas said. “I was pretty comfortable out there but it's hard because I was by myself most of the time.”

Pukstas, a graduate student who is originally from Lithuania, won his third marathon.

He won two in 2006, one in Austin, Texas, and another in Istanbul.

“Back then, I was running a lot,” Pukstas said. “I haven't been doing it much lately though.”

Pukstas finished seven seconds ahead of Scotty Downard. The third-place finisher was more than 13 minutes behind.

Pukstas is married to OSU jumps coach Zivile Pukstiene.

NEWCOMER TAKES WOMEN'S EVENT

With the weather the way it was and with calves that had been bothering her, Alaina Zanin's only goal was to finish the marathon.

But her boyfriend, OSU assistant track coach Bobby Lockhart, kept pushing her.

“He was there the whole way, yelling, ‘You're only 90 seconds behind,' and then, ‘You're only 60 seconds behind,'” Zanin said. “He was definitely pushing me.”

The possibility of a marathon win started to come into focus for the 24-year-old when she took second place with about five miles remaining.

Zanin eventually took the lead, winning the women's marathon in 3:05.14.

She finished just more than a minute ahead of second-place Katie Kramer.

It was just Zanin's second marathon. She also ran in the Las Vegas Rock ‘n' Roll Marathon in 2009, finishing in 3:22.55 and in 38th place.

“I'm really surprised,” a shivering Zanin said. “The weather was just nuts and just to finish was an accomplishment.”

Like Pukstas, Zanin now lives in Stillwater. She's originally from Kenosha, Wisc.

CHEMO TAKES A BREAK FOR RUNNER

Kimberly Begay has competed in several long distance races, but just completing the 5K run in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was her proudest feat yet.

That's because Begay, an eighth-grade teacher at Taft Middle School, had been lying in a hospital bed for almost a month before Sunday's race.

She was just released from Mercy Hospital on Tuesday after receiving her first dose of chemotherapy for leukemia. She was scheduled to begin a second round of treatments Monday.

Begay, 24, was diagnosed with the disease on April 2. Still, she wanted to run in the Memorial Marathon with more than 80 other Taft students and teachers.

“Everyone thought I was crazy but I love running,” she said.

Her only goal was to finish the race. She did so in a time of 40 minutes, 52 seconds.

“I asked the doctor if I felt like it, could I run five miles,” Begay said. "He said ‘If you feel like it, go for it.'

“I took that as a green light. I think it's pretty amazing that I can run this thing five days out of chemo treatment.”

BOMBING NOT THE ONLY REASON FOR RUNNING

Jerry Faulkner, 29, of Edmond not only was running in memory of Oklahoma City bombing victims on Sunday, he also was running for lives lost in the recent earthquake in Japan.



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