Running for redemption and a head start on her honeymoon, Jacqui Giuliano raced out front from the start and won the women’s crown in the 32nd Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon on a cool, perfect-for-running Sunday morning.
Giuliano, 26, a middle school teacher from Crystal Lake, Ill., injured a hamstring in the 2011 Lakefront, but fought through the pain to finish second, in part because her fiance encouraged her to keep going when she emphatically, unquestionably wanted to quit.
“It was the worst experience of my life,”she said.
Her leg and the relationship survived, and Giuliano put their marriage on the right path with the win, in a time of 2 hours, 55 minutes, 7 seconds. Lisa Tortorice, 36, a Wisconsin Lutheran High School alum, finished second in 2:59:04, and Denise Manthy, of Wauwatosa was third in 2:59:37. Manthy won the Wisconsin State Marathon Championship, contested among home state runners in the 2012 Lakefront.
Giuliano (actually it’s still Aubert at the moment) will marry Ryan Giuliano on Saturday, and she’ll have bragging rights: her first place vs. his third in the 26.2 mile run from Grafton to the finish line in Veteran’s Park.
Ryan Giuliano led the race by nearly 30 seconds at the 11-mile mark, but stomach issues forced a short stop in a portable bathroom around mile 18. That’s when Paul Zdroik upped the pace to a 5:25 mile and surged into a lead he would extend all the way down Lincoln Memorial Dr.
Zdroik, a former Div. III All-American at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, reached the finish line in a time of 2:27:09, his personal best and his first marathon win after third-place finishes in the Paavo Nurmi and Minneapolis Marathons. The 26-year-old stuck to his race and his plan, even while falling 30 seconds behind the leaders early.
“I know my body,” said the 26-year-old from Watertown. “I wanted to get through my wall at 15 miles.
“It was discipline, trusting in the training and trusting in God,” he said.
While Zdroik cruised along the lakefront, Zachary Meineke charged and passed Adam Condit and Ryan Giuliano to claim second place. The 24-year-old from Wauwatosa trailed the leaders by nearly three minutes at the half-way point and two minutes with just five miles left to go.
“Coming down the hill, I saw second and third ahead of me and thought, go for it,” Meineke said. “I had to put in a huge burst.”
A total of 2,108 runners followed Zdroik, Meineke and the Giulianos, across the finish line, then shivered as they scrambled to find warm clothes, a place to stretch and a free beer.
“We’re in Milwaukee,” said Krisin Seffern, of Oak Creek. “This is why we run.”
The total number of finishers for the 2012 Lakefront was up slightly from the 2011 figure, 2,077.
In comparison, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon had 8,871 finishers and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon packed 37,455 across the finish line in Grant Park. The winning times were 2:14:53 in the Twin Cities, and 2:04:38 (a new record) in Chicago. Zdroik’s 2:27:09 would have placed him 59th in the elite field in the Windy City.
Claws vs. Paws: That burst helped the Concordia University Wisconsin team out-pace the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee squad in the first Claws vs. Paws Challenge. Nearly 15o students and staff members from the individual schools, including Concordia President Patrick Ferry and UWM Chancellor Mike Lovell, competed in the challenge. Scored on the average time of their top 10 runners, Concordia claimed victory at 3:25:44 vs. 3:34:51 for UWM.
Meineke studies physical therapy at Concordia, which made him a legitimate ringer on the team led by his father-in-law, Ferry.
“It was great, a great day, a terrific experience,” said Ferry, who finished in 3:39:35, a full 25 seconds under his goal. “It was really neat on the campus; people enjoyed it and it made for a great conversation.”
Ferry’s team won the Claws vs. Paws title, but Lovell took the chancellor’s challenge. A veteran runner, the UWM leader battled stomach problems to finish in 3:19:01.
Perfectly chilled: The temperature barely topped 30 degrees at the start and the wind from the west added to the chill; ideal conditions to run.
“It was perfect,” Zdroik said. “You couldn’t ask for a better day.”
Spectator friendly: Chuck and Cathy McCoy had friends running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the Lakefront Marathon on Sunday. What to do? Go with the simplicity of the Lakefront.
“This is an awesome course,” Cathy said. “We went to mile 5, 10, 12, 18 and the finish, and we saw everybody at each spot, except for two girls who were too fast at the finish.”
McCoy said traffic and the overall chaos made it difficult to track her runners.