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Hops' top two keep company until it counts

The fact that Kenyan David Maritim was running in Sunday's Hops Marathon by Tampa Bay made it a one-man race.

Well, sort of.

Sure, there were 3,100 others running around Tampa in shorts and tank tops, puffing steam into the pitch-black morning on their way through 26.2 miles.

And there also was Phil Castillo from Colorado Springs, Colo., who led the first 13 miles before Maritim pulled alongside near Ybor City and the two had a little chat.

"Why don't we run together?" Maritim asked.

Castillo agreed.

And why wouldn't he? Castillo, 31, said he knew he wasn't going to beat Maritim, but Maritim certainly could help pull him along for a second-place finish.

"I could tell (Maritim) wasn't breathing hard and he could have left me at any time he wanted to," said Castillo, who has run a sub 2-hour, 20-minute marathon. "I also knew after he stopped (for a restroom break at Mile 8) and then ran so easily back to catch me that I wasn't going to win.

"So I appreciated him running with me."

Which was what Castillo did until Mile 24, when Maritim decided to pull away and assure his $2,250 winner's check with a ho-hum time of 2:34:36.

"I was hoping to run under 2:19, but once I got going there was no one pushing me and I didn't see any reason to (overdo it)," said Maritim, a 26-year-old who has run one other marathon, which he completed in 2:19:19. "I thought it was a good run and I was happy to run with (Castillo).

"He was friendly to me, and I wanted to help him if I could."

He did. Castillo grabbed the runnerup check of $1,250 after finishing in 2:35:58.

The women's race wasn't so buddy-buddy, as the winner, Clermont's Bea Marie Altieri, was all by herself.

She finished in 2:54:17, breaking the course record of 2:54:55 set by St. Petersburg's Christy Phillips in 2000. The run surprised Altieri.

"I've only been putting in about 30 miles a week the past month, so I didn't know how I was going to handle the marathon distance," Altieri said. "Turns out everything was great.

"I had been training hard in the fall so I did have a strong base, but today I still wasn't so sure."

She said she didn't know anything about the record until the last mile when Phillips, suddenly riding alongside on a bike, told her to, "Go, go, go," because Altieri was on pace to set a record.

Another strong motivation, Altieri admitted, was the $2,250 winner's prize.

"I was running for diamond earrings," said a grinning Altieri, 36. "I've been wanting some diamond earrings."

Tierra Verde's Lisa Valentine was runnerup in the fourth running of the marathon. Less than 24 hours earlier, Valentine, 42, finished seventh among women in the 15K Gasparilla Distance Classic in 58.02.

The next area women's finishers were Sarasota's Rachel Chambers (fifth, 3:05:27) and St. Petersburg's Amy McClenathan (sixth, 3:10:06).

Among men, the highest area finisher was Land O'Lakes' Robert Schatzman, who placed fifth in 2:43:24. The next closest area competitor was Palm Harbor's Jeffrey Delie, seventh in 2:45:55.

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