First woman wins Five Points of Life Marathon


Viktoria Poludina, of Gainesville, will win the overall marathon with an unofficial time of 2 hours 42 minutes, in the 2013 Five Points of Life Marathon and Half Marathon around Gainesville on Sunday. The Five Points of Life Marathon helps raise awareness for the five ways to share life through donations: blood, apheresis, umbilical cord blood, marrow and organ and tissues.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 7:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 7:53 p.m.

Joe Fernandez saw his breath as he looked across the start-finish line Sunday morning.

The 29-degree temperature at 7 a.m. when the siren sounded to start the eighth annual Five Points of Life Marathon forced competitors to dress in black, tight runners' pants, long sleeves, gloves and even skull caps. It was hard for Fernandez not to notice fellow runner Viktoria Poludina wearing just a half shirt and running shorts.

“When I saw what she was wearing I knew she must be the real deal,” said Fernandez, who had finished fourth in the 2011 marathon.

For the first mile and a half Poludina was in Fernandez's sight.

“She was gone after that,” said Fernandez, who was the men's overall winner Sunday with a time of 3:00:22.5 on the 26.2-mile course through downtown Gainesville and the University of Florida campus.

Poludina, a 23-year-old originally from Kyrgyzstan, was the overall winner Sunday with a time of 2:42:37.7, becoming the first woman to win the title. In addition to breaking her personal best time by seven minutes, Poludina also broke the female course record by eight minutes.

The course record still belongs to Matt Loiselle, of Toronto, who won the 2010 race in 2:25:34.

After getting a kiss on the check from her coach, Victor Borisov, and a couple of sips of Gatorade, Poludina basked in the moment.

“This is super,” Poludina said through her interpreter/assistant coach Irina Bogacheva.

“To break my own personal best, win the overall and the women's (group), I'm very happy.”

Poludina's journey to North Central Florida starts with Bogacheva, a full-time Gainesville resident. Bogacheva is a former long-distance and marathon runner, also from Kyrgyzstan, who competed in three consecutive Olympics from 1996 to 2004.

The 51-year-old has been hosting Poludina and Borisov for the last three months so the aspiring Olympian can train.

“Gainesville is a very good city for training,” Poludina said. “The nature parks are great for training. When people run they are so polite. It is very surprising how many people exercise.”

Sunday was her third marathon since the middle of December in the Sunshine State.

Poludina placed third in a Jacksonville marathon on Dec. 16 and eighth at a race in Naples.

“Her goal is to get to the Olympics in Brazil,” Bogacheva said.

Poludina wasn't about to hit the town to celebrate her latest accomplishment. She'll treat herself to some sweets instead.

“No wine,” Poludina said. “Ice cream — chocolate.”

Poludina and Fernandez, of Gainesville, also won $900 each for their finish in a race that serves as a Boston Marathon qualifier and against a field of about 129 registered solo runners (non-relay runners).

Finishing second in the men's race was B.J. Sellers of Lake Mary, and Gainesville runners Mark Ou, Joseph Tonner and Manuel Saavedra finished third through fifth, respectively.

Behind Poludina on the women's side, finishing second through fifth, were Meredith Defranco of Gainesville; Beth Woodward of Orrville, Ohio; Kathryn Schubert of Gainesville; and Morgan Keppel of Gainesville.

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