As it turns out, running a marathon is like riding a bike for Michael Booth.
Although he came into the 29th annual Manitoba Marathon not knowing how his body would respond to running more than 13 miles for the first time this year, Booth blew away the competition to claim his third consecutive full marathon title yesterday at University Stadium with a time of 2:36:13.
Booth spent much of his training season focusing on the 5,000m and 10,000m events and admitted he was feeling some heat to become the first person to win three years in a row.
"I felt a lot more pressure going in this time, so I was happy to be able to come through with a victory," said Booth. "I knew I was capable. I've done the 26 miles before. This year leading up to the race, mentally I used a lot of energy because people kept reminding me about the three-peat and that. It was a relief, I was happy to get it over with.
"My coach (Chris McCubbins) has been with me for the last five or six years and I really wanted to run well for him."
The only real adversity Booth faced came from the course itself.
"Probably around halfway, I ended up stepping funny and hurt my ankle. I think I hit a pot hole or something," said Booth. "It started to hurt my calf and I started to cramp up on the one side. The last six miles or so, I started to fall off the pace quite a bit. I knew I had a big enough lead. The goal going in was to win it. I wasn't really focused on running any sort of time."
One thing Booth was able to do was take a stroll down memory lane, since this might be the last time he runs the Manitoba Marathon (at least in the immediate future).
"If it is my last year, I really wanted to finish on a good note," said Booth, who is planning to move to Toronto to train full-time. "I'd love to be a part of it for years to come, but it's not going to be in my hands. This is an awesome event.
"This is something I've done since Grade 3 and it started with the Super Run. I did the relay a handful of times. I won the half marathon a few times and slowly worked my way up to the marathon. It's great to have the community support and being able to be out on the course and have kind of a home-court advantage and having people cheering your name."
Travis Saunders of New Brunswick was second to Booth in 2:40:03, but said he didn't provide much in the way of competition.
"Oh no, I ran with Mike (Booth) for the first three miles and then I wished him good luck and pulled back," said Saunders, who will head back to Queen's University this fall to compete his college eligibilty in track and field. "He was only four minutes ahead but he eased up because he knew I wasn't going to catch him. I was never a real threat to him.
"Not too many people come out and can jog a 2:35 or whatever he did."
Saunders, 23, was thrilled with his own result.
"I ran one in 2:45 last year in Calgary and I wanted to break that," he said. "After that, the goal was to place top 3 and get back some of my airfare. I didn't really know what to expect."
Greg Penner of Steinbach was third in 2:46:36.
NOTES: The marathon attracted record numbers as 12,925 individuals took part in the event ... Race director Sherry Lumb said she expects more than 13,000 people to take part next year as the Manitoba Marathon celebrates its 30th anniversary.