A year ago, John Riak and Jesse Stevick finished one-two in the Capital City Marathon, with Riak pulling away on the 16th mile.
But there will be no rematch today.
Riak is putting his ambitions of running nationally on hold because of shin splints, an injury he fears is a stress fracture. Stevick, meanwhile, will go for his fifth Capital City win, which would tie him with Phil Jasperson for most wins in the race.
“I really wanted this year to be a good one,” said Riak, who was an All-American at Saint Martin’s University. “I was training more than ever.”
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Two months ago, Riak was running 100 miles a week when his leg started to
hurt. He hasn’t run for a month.
“I have never even taken a week off since high school,” said Riak, a state qualifier in track and cross country at North Thurston High School. “I maybe did more than I should have.”
Riak was hoping to start running in more prominent races that offered prize money. He’s been sending money that he earns as a care provider home to his family in Sudan.
“I’m trying to take care of my family back home,” Riak said. “Running doesn’t help me right now to help those people. It takes a lot of time and there’s not any money in it. I was hoping to earn money running internationally, but that’s not happening.”
Nearly 11 years ago, Riak came to Lacey from Sudan, as one of the “Lost Boys.” At 7, he fled his village in Sudan during a raid by Sudanese soldiers. He walked hundreds of miles with other children across Sudan to safety at a refugee camp in Kenya.
He plans on returning to Sudan to visit his mother and relatives this year.
“I love running,” Riak said. “But right now it’s not working out so good. Time is running out.”
Last year, Riak won the Capital City Marathon in 2 hours and 31 minutes, snapping Stevick’s win streak of four straight. It was Riak’s second marathon.
Stevick, after finishing nearly nine minutes behind Riak, admitted to a training mistake last year. Five weeks before running the Capital City, he ran a marathon on Whidbey Island as a training run, but it drained him.
“I think I’ve learned my lesson. I can’t recover,” Stevick said. “I felt great through the first 16 miles. Then I went into survival mode.”
Jasperson won the race in 1990, 1994, 1999, 2001 and 2003 to set the standard for most wins.
Richard Leland won the first Capital City Marathon in 1982 in 2:57:16. Two years later, Leland won the race again with a time of 2:55:35.
Karen Steen is the top women’s winner with seven firsts, winning in 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002-05.