The Garmin Kansas City Marathon annually welcomes runners from across the U.S., men and women who travel to the heart of America to compete in a 26.2-mile race through the streets of downtown KC and Johnson County.
But it was a pair of local college graduates who claimed this year’s men’s and women’s titles on Saturday.
Central Missouri grad Nicholas Victor was first to cross the line, in a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes, 39 seconds, and Blue Valley Southwest and Pittsburg State grad Piper Parres crossed not long after — in 3:02:46 — to take first place for the women.
More impressive? Both runners were competing in their first marathon.
“I did not expect to win the first one at all,” Parres, 22, said. “I was just going to go out, I was mainly just trying to not die in the middle. And so that was a huge surprise to me.”
The same could be said for Victor, 24, who said he went into the race simply hoping to “not die” ... until he found himself near the front of the pack.
Victor, who’s originally from Wisconsin but now lives in Waukee, Iowa, competed for the track and field and cross country teams at Central Missouri. During his senior year in Warrensburg, 2019-20, he was the program’s second-place finisher in the 10K at NCAA regionals.
He briefly stopped running after graduation, but then he realized he still had the hunger for competition. So he began training for a marathon.
He said his goal was to maintain a six-minute-mile pace throughout Saturday’s race. But about halfway through, he was alerted by a biker that the marathon leader was not far ahead of him.
“I felt good and I thought, ‘I’m going to be upset if I don’t give myself a shot,’” Victor said. “So I felt good, made a move, and then ended up OK.”
Victor ended up more than OK, finishing a little over five minutes ahead of runner-up and KCMO native Jason Fambrough. But if that victory margin sounds impressive, check out Parres’.
Considering the 22-year-old came into the race not expecting to win, her winning margin of more than 18 minutes ahead of runner-up Adrienne Morgart of Platte City was nothing short of remarkable.
“I am honestly just so grateful to God that I was able to come out and be healthy enough to race today,” Parres said. “I hadn’t done a marathon before, so it was a fun experience trying to push myself a little.”
Parres was a standout at Pittsburg State in track and field and cross country. She won the NCAA regional meet in 2018 before finishing 75th at the NCAA Division II National Championships. She still ranks among Pitt State’s top 10 in four track events.
Like Victor, Parres said she felt good early Saturday before having to mentally fight through the middle portion of the marathon, which included multiple steep hills. This year’s course started and ended at the Nelson Atkins Museum to avoid downtown KC construction.
“I really had to dig deep and be disciplined then,” she said. “And then for the last probably eight (miles) or so, it was just a matter of trying to maintain pace and effort.”
Saturday’s KC Marathon, held under ideal conditions of blue skies and cool temperatures, marked Parres’ first race in about 18 months.
“It was special to be able to run a ran in my hometown and have a positive outcome,” Parres said. “Gorgeous weather and the course was beautiful, so scenic.”
In the half marathon, Joseph Moore won his second straight KC title in a time of 1:09:32. Jessica Allen also won her second straight KC half marathon, topping the women’s field in 1:21:37.