LINCOLN, Nebraska (Lincoln Journal Star) — Alex Ekesa ran a 26.2-mile race Sunday, taking on the warming temperatures and wind gusts that came with it.
Turns out, that was the easy part to his weekend.
Due to days of multiple travel issues, the 38-year-old runner from Kenya didn’t arrive in Lincoln until 4 a.m. Sunday. He didn’t have time to sleep — only time to shower and meditate — and barely enough time to pick up his bib number.
But less than 5½ hours after finally getting to his hotel, there was Ekesa making the turn onto the track at Ed Weir Stadium for the final yards of the 44th Lincoln Marathon. He won it in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 16 seconds.
“I just feel grateful and thankful,” Ekesa said. “My gratitude first goes to (the Lincoln Marathon organizers and volunteers) for actually making all the difference, making sure this marathon takes place and is a success. To see everyone attend and participate in this race, that excites me a lot.”
Ekesa was nearly a nonparticipant in this year’s race.
“It was very interesting,” he said.
Ekesa was booked to fly out of Kenya earlier in the week, but he was unable to fly through Europe as originally planned. He turned around from the airport and had to look for a new strategy, Ekesa said. He was able to line up a flight that took him to Qatar and then Dallas. After a long layover in Dallas, he landed at Kansas City International Airport at 1 a.m. Sunday, six hours ahead of the race start. The problem, however, was he didn’t have a way to get to Lincoln. But he found an Uber driver willing to make the three-hour drive and the 38-year-old runner arrived in Lincoln at 4 a.m.
He showered, then laid in his bed for a few moments.
“Did some meditation,” Ekesa said. “By the time I was done, it was time for the race.”
The lack of sleep didn’t faze him. Nor did he panic.
“I wasn’t worried at all,” he said when asked if he thought he might not arrive in time to race. “If by chance I was worried, I don’t think I’d make it here. But I believed in myself that no matter what happens I must get here, and I got here.”
Ekesa, running in his first Lincoln Marathon, got out in front with the top half-marathon runners and then was all by himself for the final 13.1 miles as it started to warm up. The only negative part of the day was the wind, he said.
Peter Falcon (Maple Grove, Minnesota), 31, placed second in 2:29:07, and Omaha’s Brett Rosauer, 30, finished in third at 2:29:39.
Ekesa said he was aiming for 2:17:00 (his career-best time is in the 2:26:00 range), which would have earned him some extra prize money, “but having to go through all this somehow, I felt my efforts were actually for that time (2:28:00).”
He was one of three Kenya natives to win Sunday. Dominic Korir won the men’s half-marathon and Iveen Chepkemoi won the women’s half-marathon.
Ekesa, who plans to return to the states for a half-marathon in Utah in July, didn’t show much fatigue after the race. He sat down in the infield grass at Ed Weir Stadium to stretch and rest for about 20 minutes, then did interviews. He was very much looking forward to returning to his hotel room to rest.
He’ll leave Lincoln with a first-place prize and a story to tell.
“I just said, OK, all of this happened … for a reason, so I could motivate someone else that no matter what happens to you, no matter what happens in life, it’s making you greater, stronger,” Ekesa said.
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