Detroit marathon produces 2 first-time winners

Geoff Robinson
Special to The Detroit News
Jonathan Mott was the overall winner of the 40th annual Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 in Detroit.

Detroit — Johnathan Mott came from Lakeland, Florida looking for his first win as a marathon runner.

He got it.

Finishing with an unofficial time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 53 seconds, Mott was ecstatic to bring home his first win in the Detroit Free Press / Chemical Bank Marathon, along with a check for $4,000, even if it meant battling conditions he said were less than ideal.

“I knew coming in, looking at the forecast, that the times were going to be slow,” he said. “I was prepared for that, so I threw my personal record out the window at the starting line. I was hoping for a lot faster (time), but I went really conservative early on.”

The rain forecast for the day managed to hold off, but as day broke over the runners, the wind began to pick up and the temperatures dropped. 

“I came here thinking it was going to be perfect (running) conditions, but it still got to 70 degrees plus," said Mott. "The wind, the heat, it was awful out there.”

There was another first time winner on the women’s side, as Russian runner Valentyna Poltavska captured the victory in her sixth appearance at the Detroit Marathon.

Poltavska, who came in with an unofficial time 2 hours, 49 minutes, 53 seconds, said through a translator that she’s very happy to get her first win.

Valentyna Poltavska was the first woman to cross the finish line for the 40th annual Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 in Detroit.

She said that she is 46 years old and has been running since she was a teenager. 

During his race, Mott was keeping steady in third place before making his move to pass the leader in the second half of the race.

“I was about two minutes back, but when we crossed the bridge into Michigan, I saw second place and caught him,” the 30-year-old Mott said. “He told me how far ahead the leader was, and around the 16 or 17 mile mark, I caught him and never looked back.”

Mott ran track and cross country in high school and at Webber International University in Florida with minimal success. It wasn’t until he graduated from college that he started to take his training to the next level.

Mott qualified for the Olympic trials in Los Angeles in 2016, finishing 47th. His personal best in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 12 seconds at a race in Houston. He also finished in the top 20 at the Chicago Marathon last year.

“I wanted my first win,” Mott said. “I’m not even worried about my time considering the conditions. I’m just happy I got the win.”

On Saturday night, organizers said the race could be canceled due to the weather. 

On the Facebook page for the marathon, organizers warned that thunderstorms producing lightning within 7 miles of the course would force the race to be evacuated and canceled. 

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.