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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 18 2013

VIDEO: Erichsen's surge gives him second men's Fargo Marathon title

FARGO – There were times in the Fargo Marathon when James Kirwa was so far out in front that it got lonely in the streets of Fargo. He looked back several times, only to see nobody behind him.

If it were a 22-mile race, Kirwa would have been the one breaking the tape at the Fargodome. But in a rally that was stunning to watch and compelling in its strategy, former champion Chris Erichsen made it two titles on Saturday finishing with a time of 2 hours, 20 minutes, 42 seconds.

“I don’t necessarily think I made a move,” Erichsen said. “I stayed consistent. I think the leader came back.”

He came back in the last four miles, although he steadily closed the gap before that. After starting the first couple miles at a 4:40-per-mile pace and settling in at around 5:05 to 5:15 for most of the race, Kirwa slowed to 5:40 between miles 19 and 20. His next mile was 5:41.

Kirwa admitted he “ran too fast to start.” He said he started to cramp around mile 22. And when he turned back, there was Erichsen, only a couple of blocks behind.

“I just wanted to run a good race and it worked out,” said Erichsen, who said he got stronger as the race wore on. “I hadn’t raced since last October so I was a little rusty at the beginning.”

Moreover, work conflicts that required travel to Asia and the tough winter weather weren’t kind to training. He spent more time on a treadmill then he would have liked.

Kirwa had some obvious facial grimaces at mile 23, and his form started to lose its fluidity. Erichsen was within 9 seconds at mile 24 and it looked to be a matter of time before he took over.

“You have to stick to your race plan,” said former two-time winner Chad Wallin. “He probably had an idea what he wanted to run. It was awesome that he came back like that.”

Erichsen passed Kirwa right before the mile 25 marker and the lead continued to increase until the finish inside the Fargodome.

The difference in energy was obvious. Kirwa, a champion in the Pittsburgh Marathon, was only two weeks removed from his last marathon.

Plus, the quick early pace didn’t work out in the end, either.

“I think that first two miles he already had a 20-second lead,” Erichsen said. “I wasn’t ready to pick it up that fast.”

But he did pick up $1,500 for winning. His time was just off his course record of 2:19.55 set in 2010. His pace was 5:23 per mile, which didn’t waver much over the entire course.

Kirwa, a native of Kenya who got $1,200 for finishing second, said he’s already planning to come back next year. He finished 50 seconds behind Erichsen.

“I’m going to try and win it,” he said.