MODESTO — Near-perfect running weather, generous cheers from a festive crowd and the promise of prize money helped racers demolish previous records at Sunday's Modesto Marathon.
Both winners in the men's and women's division set course records and received $1,000 cash bonuses in the fourth annual event. Records also fell in the men's half marathon and 5-kilometer races.
Some winners said they were drawn by the purse, which has been offered in previous races but not promoted much until this year.
Jesus Campos of Fresno held off a late charge by hometown favorite Jon Olsen of Modesto, who won the race in its first two years. Both men bested the all-time record set last year; Campos' time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds decimated the previous mark by nearly six minutes, and Olsen came in 42 seconds after Campos.
Anna Bretan of Berkeley demolished the former record (2:52:25) for the women's marathon, by nearly nine minutes, with a time of 2:43.33.
Turlock's Miguel Nuci won the half marathon in 1:11:20, and Stara Visser of Oakdale was the women's champion at 1:27:32.
Campos and Bretan received $500 for winning their events plus $500 for breaking course records. Nuci, whose time also was tops in four years, got half that amount.
Many in a steady stream of runners seemed to appreciate a handmade sign held by Kelley Fisher at the 7-mile marker on North Avenue, west of Modesto.
"I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me," it read.
"They love the verse," Fisher said. "They say, 'I went to church!' "
Presumably not that day, however.
A 12-person ukulele band played "Hey, Good Lookin' " and "La Bamba" nearby, and other spectators cheered from a line of lawn chairs.
Felipe Tejeda was among several fans at the finish line holding flowers and watching for a familiar face. His girlfriend, Samantha Heckel, was due in any minute.
"You run 13.1 miles (a half marathon), I'm pretty sure you want to see some flowers," he said.
Ryan Whiteley, 27, groaned to think about waiting tables at Del Rio Country Club only a few hours after finishing a half marathon. At least he was able to shave six minutes off his former best time.
"I knew I wouldn't get it off (work)," he said, "so I just dealt with it."
In her second marathon Sunday, Alyssa Fleming took a full hour off the time she set here a year ago. Running also has taken 80 pounds off her 15-year-old frame.
"It's a wonderful story," said Mike Araiza of Teens Run Modesto, the group providing inspiration for the Modesto Marathon. "To see something like this — it's all worth it."
Alyssa, a Davis High School freshman, came in fifth among all women marathoners Sunday with a time of 3:39:10. She said she felt fine after the race and hopes someday to try ultramarathons.
"At first, I ran to lose weight," she said. "Now it's just for the fun."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.