CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK — Klamath Union graduate Ben Blake said he always has wanted to run a half-marathon.
He made his debut into the event a good one.
Blake won Saturday’s 13-mile race the Crater Lake Rim Runs and Marathon in one hour, 27 minutes, 21 seconds to win a race rarely captured by Klamath Falls runners in the 44-year history of the event.
His win is just the 10th by a local runner, and just the second since 2010.
What he discovered is what the first female, defending champion Erica Hunsberger of Portland, to finish the race had forgotten — the dreadful final four miles of steady, upward climbs.
“I always wanted to do a half-marathon, and I started training for it when coach (Rob) Coffman offered me a spot in the race,” Blake said.
“It was hard. That final four miles is like nothing else. That was the mental part (of the race). I think I ran pretty well. I pushed hard at the beginning, and I paid for that later. This was my first half-marathon, so I didn’t know what to expect, especially one of the caliber of this one.”
He beat Ryan Sullivan by almost six minutes, and Sullivan finished ahead of less than half-minute before Hunsberger.
“No, this race was not easier than last year,” she said. “It’s great to be back and I might come back to try for three in a row, but I forgot about those last four miles. This is not your typical half-marathon.”
Hunsberger did take almost five minutes off her winning time of a year ago, and her 1:33:49 is the fastest by a female runner since 2008.
Last year’s men’s winner, Daniel Lindstrom of Portland, was nursing a muscle strain so competed in the 6.7-mile race this year and finished second overall, about a full second behind the winner.