NEW ORLEANS — Meyer Friedman watched the distance between him and Peter Omae shrink Sunday morning at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon and Half Marathon.
One mile. Half a mile. Several feet in front of Friedman.
“I was motivated when I was closing in on him,” Friedman said later. “ I felt like I had a chance.”
He took his chance in the final mile as the 26.2-mile course snaked its way through City Park, past the old tennis complex and the sculpture garden. With about 800 meters left, Friedman took over the lead, surpassing a fading Omae, and finished with a strong kick to win the annual race for the sixth time in his home state.
Friedman, a Franklinton native and former long distance runner at Tulane, completed the course in two hours, 28 minutes and 43 seconds. He also won last year’s race, as well as in 2005 and 2007-2009, known then as the Mardi Gras Marathon.
Omae, a Kenyan runner, finished second (02:29:35). Uptown native Trevor Middleton, also a former Tulane runner, finished third in his first marathon (02:35:10).
“I just decided six months ago this was something to train for, and made a goal for doing it,” said Middleton, who entering the race averaged 80-90 miles a week before work in New York City.
In the women’s division, Baton Rouge resident Karen Lockyer, a former standout runner at McNeese State, won her first marathon with a time of 02:52:23. C. Everhardt finished second (02:53:33).
“I really find that the running balances my work,” said Lockyer, a New Zealand native who works as a store manager in Baton Rouge. “It allows me to really get rid of any anxiety or any problems. I get a lot of thinking done as well. It gives me a clear head.”
In the men’s half-marathon, Mo Farah (1:00:59), the British Olympic champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, frolicked Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia (1:01:00) in the final 200 meters of the 13.1-mile course. Meseret Defar of Ethiopia won the women’s division (1:07:25), followed by Shalane Flanagan of Portland, Ore.
Perhaps the most intriguing story was Ian Carr, a local guitarist who turned to running two years ago after his band lost its drummer and disbanded. While he searches for a new band to rock with, he started running, including an eight-mile, round-trip routine from Kenner to work in Metairie. He led the first half of Sunday’s race until Omae tracked him down at about mile 14, and Friedman at mile 15.
Carr held third in the men’s marathon until he misjudged the finishing line, allowing Middleton to capitalize.
“I guess it being my first one, I went out a little too hard,” Carr said. “And at the end, I sprinted a little too early. I thought I was at the end, but there was one more turn.”
Approximately 16,000 participants endured the flat course, starting downtown on Poydras Street before before reaching St. Charles Avenue and the French Quarters, then Esplanade Avenue to City Park.