Andersen, Brewis make it a pure Michigan marathon

James Hawkins
Special to The Detroit News

Courtney Brewis breaks the finish line banner.

Detroit — Roughly 5,500 runners from all walks of life took to the streets of downtown Detroit and Windsor for the 37th Detroit Free Press / Talmer Bank Marathon Sunday morning.

At the end of the scenic 26.2-mile course, a pair of runners from Metro Detroit snapped the finish line tape at the corner of Fort Street and Second Avenue, besting a field that boasted runners from 48 states and 19 countries.

Michael Andersen, 27, of Walled Lake, was the overall winner, finishing with a personal-best time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, 54 seconds. Courtney Brewis, 23, of Dearborn, placed atop the female division by clocking in at 2:45:52.

Mike Andersen crosses the finish line on Sunday morning.

Andersen edged out last year's winner, Zachary Ornelas of Ann Arbor, in a thrilling finish in which he took the lead down the Fort Street straightaway with roughly 200 yards to go.

"I had about a seven-second gap that I was down when we were approaching the 26-mile mark. I made it up super quick, so when I came around that corner (to Fort Street) I just wanted to go as hard as I could for as long as I could," Andersen said with tears streaming down his cheeks.

"I got super emotional and excited. It's one of the best feelings in the world right there."

Ornelas took the lead from Terence Attema of Smithville, Ontario, around the 22-mile mark, but his attempt at joining Doug Kurtis as the only male runners to win the marathon multiple times came up just short.

"(Andersen) passed me on the straight. I just had nothing," said Ornelas, who is coming back off a partially-torn hip labrum. "I needed to get a little bit of my legs back and maybe I'll go with him, but I've never been a kicker. He came around me looking fresh. I was surprised I was leading at any point, though, so I'm really happy."

Ornelas placed second at 2:25:13 and Attema finished third in 2:25:50.

The win was even more special for Andersen because he was able to embrace and celebrate with his wife Katie, whom he married two months ago.

"It means a lot, more than just the running side of things. Being a new dad and husband, it's a different feeling to win. It's deeper than just for me now," he said. "But on top of that, marathons are really rare to win so it's super special.

"I got choked up a few times seeing her on the course. And knowing that she was right there, that was amazing."

It was only Andersen's fourth marathon and second time running in Detroit after finishing third in 2011. It was also the first marathon Andersen has run this year because he hasn't had much spare time with the recent birth of his daughter Alexandra in March, working full-time at the Running Lab in Brighton and coaching cross country at Milford High School.

"It was hard enough to get the training in for this one. This was my big goal race for the year," said Andersen, who began running in the sixth grade. "I wanted to use marathons to travel a little bit so I ran one in Minnesota then Boston last year. Detroit is always really special, so to come back here and actually win, that's crazy."

Brewis' finish wasn't nearly as close as Andersen's as she led throughout the majority of the race and beat defending two-time winner Lyubov Denisova by nearly two minutes.

Brewis, who ran track and cross country at Dearborn Divine Child High School and Grand Valley State University, ran her first marathon back in June in Duluth, Minnesota, and since then has been preparing to run in Detroit.

"Since high school I've wanted to do a marathon. My dad has run marathons before and he actually did the half (marathon) today. I definitely wanted to run this race for awhile now," said Brewis, who is in her second year at Grand Valley's physical therapy doctorate program. "It's exciting to be able to do it and do well.

"Running the 10K (at Grand Valley) prepared me well for this and in our training we do a lot of longer workouts. The 10K has the feeling of fighting through waves of feeling good and bad and it's kind of the same with the marathon."

Brewis added she felt strong through the first half of the course and had to grind through the rest.

"The last half was pretty tough for me so I was a little worried about getting caught. But when I turned onto Fort Street and knew there wasn't anyone right behind, I felt good and tried to give it a little kick," she said.

"I was shooting for a little bit faster of a time and I definitely ran a slower time in the second half, but that's OK. It's definitely a learning experience."

For winning, Andersen and Brewis both took home a check for $4,000.

An estimated 50,000 spectators braved the chilly weather to cheer on the roughly 27,300 runners and walkers.