Day of records during Walla Walla Marathon

The third annual Walla Walla Marathon had its most runners and fastest times Sunday.

A pair of half-marathoners are reflected in the clock near the finish line at Pioneer Park on Sunday.

A pair of half-marathoners are reflected in the clock near the finish line at Pioneer Park on Sunday. Photo by Alfred Diaz.



Former Walla Walla resident Helen (Reich) Cantero of Seattle wins the women's Walla Walla Marathon on Sunday.

WALLA WALLA — The third annual Walla Walla Marathon saw record-breaking numbers, both in times and competitors.

First place for the full-marathon runner went to Robert Nelson, 33, of Seattle with a time of 3:07:01, beating the course record by two seconds.

In the 2010 inaugural Walla Walla Marathon, local Elliot Broze set the record at 3:07:03.

Nelson said around two miles past the halfway mark he made his move.

“That’s when I pushed the issue, around 15 miles, when we had a bunch of guys grouped up,” Nelson.

The first-time marathon runner said he never caught sight of the other marathon runners, even at an in-and-out leg at the 22 mile mark, which is where runners often get a chance to see who is behind them.

“That’s when I knew how far back they were,” Nelson said.

The next fastest time went to Chris Andrews, 22, of Walla Walla who finished at 3:14:28.

Third place went to 2011 Walla Walla Marathon winner JD Jaspersen, 44, of Walla Walla with a time of 3:17:23.

The women’s marathon winner and new course record holder also went to a runner from Seattle, but one with roots in the Walla Walla Valley.

Helen (Reich) Cantero, 23, a graduate of the Wa-Hi class of 2007, set a new course record at 3:26:27.

The previous record was held by Marcella Rietz of Walla Walla, who ran a 3:26:57 last year.

Cantero, who ran her first and only other marathon in 2010, said at the 13-mile mark she pulled ahead and kept the lead.

“I was just feeling really good and so I thought ‘why not,’” Cantero said.

Runners were not the only record-setters Sunday, as roughly 400 runners participated in the 10K, half-marathon and full-marathon that is also a Boston Marathon qualifier.

Gary Rittenbach, assistant race director, said he doubts the Boston qualifier aspect had much to do with the 50 percent increase in competitors because the Walla Walla course is not conducive to quick times.

“Because it is a hilly course, it is very hard to get into the Boston Marathon,” Rittenbach said. And he noted that flatter marathons with a slight downhill grade, like the Sacramento (Calif.) Marathon, attract more runners who are hoping to qualify for larger races.

While the overall number of full-marathon runners increased by just seven, the 10k and half-marathon events brought in an additional 120 runners this year; last year’s total number of runners was around 265.

“It takes time to get people into the psyche of it and to get the word out,” Rittenbach said.

For more information on the Walla Walla Marathon, go to


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