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August 21, 2000

Contact information Ann Tatko may be reached at 636-0258 or annt @ gazette . com

Finishing last has its own rewards

By Ann Tatko/The Gazette

The radio cracked to life: "They're coming in."

A handful of Pikes Peak Marathon volunteers scrambled to their feet as if the race winners were about to cross the finish line.

In reality, the race had officially ended 1 hour, 43 minutes earlier on Sunday evening.

But it had not yet ended for Ron Marianetti and Jim Reeve of Michigan, who were about to earn the distinction of coming off the mountain last.

By 6:43 p.m. Manitou Avenue had regained normalcy.

The strip of tape marking the finish line no longer stretched across the street. The tents, poles, tables and chairs had returned home to their rental company. The orange cones and metal barriers dotting the race course had disappeared into the back of a truck.

All that remained were a lone rectangular table, three folding chairs and four volunteers.

The tiny welcoming committee brought a tired smile to the face of 59-year-old Marianetti.

Flanked by two Search and Rescue workers and two other race volunteers, Marianetti drew up short along side 58-year-old Reeve. His gaze fastened on the medals hanging from the volunteers' hands, only a few more steps away.

"This means so much," Marianetti said, raising a disposable camera and snapping a shot of the medal that would soon hang around his neck.

Moments later, he collapsed onto a chair, hugged one of the Search and Rescue workers, and let 11 hours and 43 minutes of pain and exhaustion drain from his body.

"I'm a little sore," he said. "And really glad it's over."

Reeve laughed. "It seems like we've been out here all day."

The duo from Michigan had reached the top of Pikes Peak at 1:15 p.m., with just 15 minutes until the cut off time. But the hard part was actually travelling back downhill.


"Age," Marianetti said.

"Cramps," Reeve said.

"Large rocks," Marianetti added.

They looked at each other and laughed.

Those factors had conspired to leave the two runners in last place, as they realized about halfway down the mountain.

That's when Search and Rescue joined them - a personal escort for the race's final finishers.

"We stuck together because we needed the moral support," Reeve said. "The volunteers made this (finish) possible."

Marianetti and Reeve were just two of 14 runners to finish the race after the cut-off time of 10 hours.

DeEtte Anderson, a 65-year-old from Minnesota, arrived about a half-hour late.

As she sat trying to catch her breath, two other runners rounded the corner.

"That's good," she said. "I beat somebody."

DeEtte also beat her 70-year-old husband, Robert, who almost needed medical attention on the mountain because of cramping.

A few minutes after the race, clutching his lower back, Robert fought delirium as he tried to remember his last name.

"I finished," he said.

On that point, he was quite clear.

Bill Behnen of Clarksville, Ind., also finished - as the last official runner to cross the line in 9 hours, 59 minutes and 51 seconds.

When the 63-year-old stumbled toward the finishers' tent, he glanced up at the clock and then fell into the arms of a waiting fire department medical attendant.

"I had nothing left," Behnen said. "I wasn't sure I could keep standing."

Six hours earlier on the peak, volunteers had tried to dissuade Behnen from descending. He had already vomited and lost a lot of fluids.

"He was only a few minutes from the cut-off," said his wife, Phyllis. "When they told him that, he jumped and took off like a squirrel."

Despite enduring dehydration, the 10-year marathon veteran ignored the volunteers' advice.

Back in 1990 he had finished the race in 8:32. And he knew before Sunday's race that he wouldn't be coming back.

"This was my last one," he said. "I wanted to go out a winner."

Not in first place, not even in second, he just wanted to be like everyone else - a finisher.

Copyright 1999-2000, The Gazette, a Freedom Communications, Inc. Company. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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