Drew Nicholson used a home course advantage to propel himself to win the inaugural Surrey International World Music Marathon on Sunday.
Nicholson won his first-ever full marathon under sunny skies and cool autumn temperatures in a time of two hours, 36 minutes and 19 seconds. The win comes after a 10th place finish at the BMO Vancouver Marathon in early May this year, followed by a ninth place finish at the Scotia Bank Half Marathon in late June. In total, 236 runners took part in the full marathon course. Overall, more than 1,500 registered for the Surrey World International Music Marathon.
The win was especially sweet for the local runner, as he battle through a number of injuries over the course of the summer. Nicholson, 28, won the event despite suffering an achilles injury in early July followed closely by a knee injury due to a bicycle accident.
"This is great, it's like a dream come true," said an exhausted but elated Nicholson shortly after crossing the finish line. "I was born and raised in Surrey, so to win here is awesome."
Nicholson's winning time also shaved more than three seconds of his personal best time. While he said he shooting for a time of 2:35, he wasn't about to complain about his time.
"I was in a lot of pain in the last few kilometres, it was tough. My lungs were burning but this is worth it," said Nicholson, who plans on taking the upcoming week off work to recuperate.
Nicholson's winning time gives him an exemption into next year's Boston Marathon, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world. It got its start in 1897 and now draws more than 20,000 participants and a half million spectators. Despite qualifying, Nicholson said his goal is to run the Chicago Marathon in 2013 and leave Boston to 2014.
He said running in front of family and friends was a huge motivator, as well as his coach, John Hill.
Hill, a Vancouver Falcons Athletic Club coach and member of the B.C. Athletics Hall of Fame, won the Vancouver Marathon in 1978. Nicholson said Hill helped this summer when injuries were hampering his progress. He said he was confident he would be ready for today's event.
"We felt like with the proper program in place and the right mix of training and rest we would be fine."
Jeremy Waters of Coquitlam finished second overall with a time of 2:47:27 while Chris Barth of White Rock rounded out the top three in a time of 2:50:27.
On the ladies side, Langley's Kendra Braun was the top finisher with a time of 3:04:10. Tracy Kuehn, also of Langley finished second with a time of 3:21:35 while Surrey's Tanya Zarin rounded out the ladies top three with a 3:27:07 run.
It was a Vancouver sweep on the men's side in the half marathon, as Nicholas Browne paced himself to top spot with a time of 1:12:07, ahead of Andrew Powell at 1:18:51 and Jordan Back at 1:19:13. On the ladies side Rika Hatachi won top spot, finishing with a time of 1:27:18. Delta's Courtney McEwan finished second in 1:30:37 while New Westminster's Vanessa Woznow was third in a time of 1:32:40.
While it may have been the shortest competitive distance run on Sunday, the five kilometre loop drew the biggest crowd. Everyone was lined up to see 101-year-old Fauja Singh of the U.K. take part in the event. Lined up beside Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, the energetic Singh waved his hands to the crowd before the start of the race. The centurion finished his race in just under 36 minutes. Singh holds a number of world records for his age, and was the first 100-year-old to finish a full marathon when he competed in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October of 2011. He finished in a time of 8:11:06. Speaking through his granddaughter Simmi Dhillon, Singh said he was honoured to be able to run in Surrey and proud of the Sikh community that came out to cheer him on. He said he was especially grateful to be able to run with four generations of his family. Ajay Dhindsa said it was an honour to run with his great grandfather.
"It was a great experience," said Dhindsa. "This is the first time I've run with him. He's a great person."