John Crews wasn't exactly considered the favorite to capture the 16th annual Philadelphia Marathon. In fact, his name was absent from the press kit handed out to the media.
It probably shouldn't have been.
The 25-year-old Raleigh, N.C., resident, who starred on the North Carolina State track team, had aspirations of not only winning the marathon, but also making the 2012 Olympic Trials. He vigorously trained 130-150 hours a week to reach those goals - goals that came to fruition yesterday morning under perfect weather conditions.
Crews conquered the scenic 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 17 minutes, 15 seconds to become the first U.S.-born man since 2000 to win the Philadelphia Marathon. His personal-best time easily qualified him for the Olympic Trials and was just 28 seconds shy of tying the course record, 2:16:47, set by Joseph Ndiritu in 2003. Brian Clas, of New York, was the last American-born man to win in Philly.Emory Mort, 26, of Ghent, N.Y., finished in second (2:24:31), while Karl Savage, 30, was the top Philadelphia finisher, placing third (2:26:02).
Crews, who also won his hometown Raleigh Marathon as well as the Keybank Vermont Marathon, said "no" when asked if he was confident that he would win.
"I thought if I had a good day then I'd be up there," he said. "But anything can go wrong in a marathon. I just wanted to run my pace [which ended up being 5:14 per mile] and do as best as I could. I was shooting for both the win and a sub-2:19:00 [to get into the Olympic Trials]."
He secured both, spelling his name for the unenlightened media in his post-marathon interview, then receiving congratulations from his fiancee, Amy Kelly, 23, a Philadelphia native who attended St. Hubert High before meeting Crews at North Carolina State, where they both ran track.
"I was more nervous for him than myself," said Kelly, who finished third among females in the Rothman Institute 8K race in 28:54. "I'm so glad that he ran great today."
Said Crews, who is completing his graduate studies at N.C. State in mechanical engineering: "You've gotta have a supportive fiancee. That helps. We're each other's biggest fans."
Jutta Merilainen, 37, a native of Finland who trains near Toronto, won the women's event, crossing the finish line in a personal-best 2 hours, 46 minutes, 44 seconds. Doreen McCoubrie, 48, of Malvern, finished second (2:49:09).
Merilainen pulled away at the halfway point, but admitted she didn't know she was in first until a friend told her. It wasn't until about the three-quarter mark that she was sure.
"I thought I was in second," Merilainen said. "My friend said you better believe it, 'You're in first!' I got very lucky."
A record 20,000 runners registered for the three events, which included the marathon, half-marathon and 8K. And Mayor Nutter expects that number to grow in the future.
"It's very encouraging," Nutter said of the increased turnout. "And we're exploring other ways that we can not only increase how many people participate . . . but as I said a couple days ago . . . the quality of our race is as important as the size . . . quality matters as much as quantity . . . but it keeps growing and we're excited about it."