Kenny McDaniel was an almost apologetic champion Saturday afternoon after he grabbed an unexpected victory in the men’s division of the 38th annual Race to Robie Creek.
“I kind of feel bad,’’ McDaniel said after two-time defending champion Markus Geiger wasn’t able to finish the 13.1-mile course.
In the women’s race, Andrija Barker won by more than 6 minutes in her Robie debut.
“I knew I was going to win about 2 miles in,” she said. “It made me so happy and it made me just enjoy the rest of the race so much.’’
More than 2,400 runners and walkers kicked off the first major running event of the season.
McDaniel, a 33-year-old personal trainer and triathlete who lives in Boise, completed the half-marathon in 1 hour, 22 minutes and 17.8 seconds.
That’s more than 4 minutes slower than Geiger ran last year to win his second straight Robie title.
But just as McDaniel reached the finish line, he saw Geiger arrive by cart. McDaniel spoke to Geiger as they crossed paths.
“I kind of feel bad,” McDaniel said. “He’s such a great runner. I know I worked hard, but he’s definitely the class of the field. I just happened to be in good position that if I got lucky or something went wrong I’d be able to take advantage of it.”
He didn’t see what befell Geiger, who was taken to the medical tent at the finish.
“I always wanted to win this and it’s definitely an important race on my schedule,” McDaniel said, “but I’d love to truly earn it and to race him head to head and be able to say I was the better person. ... He had a strong lead. He’s pretty close to unbeatable.”
McDaniel figures he has run in the race at least eight times, starting when he was 18. His best previous finish was third.
He uses Robie as a starting point for his triathlon season. He has completed several full Ironmans, he said.
“Since high school, (Robie) was kind of something I saw as a really difficult race and I wanted to be a part of it and see how I stack up against the other guys in town,” he said.
Rick Floyd finished second in 1:22:47.3.
Barker went into the Race to Robie Creek “terrified” of the downhill, but it was the closing steps of the massive climb that forced her to repeat her running mantra.
“I’m unable to quit,” she told herself, “because I’m currently too legit.”
She was certainly legit Saturday — dominating the women’s division. Barker, a sales rep for running brand Saucony, finished 16th overall by completing the half-marathon in 1 hour, 30 minutes and 52.7 seconds..
“I just felt perfect. I knew I was on. You can just kind of tell. I felt smooth and controlled and I knew I was going to be OK,’’ the 34-year-old said.
Lauri Thompson of Boise claimed second for the fourth straight year in 1:37:22.7. Thompson has been beaten by four different women in those years.
She won’t have to worry about Barker next year. The winner was emphatic that her first Robie also was her last.
“I’ll come back as a spectator,” Barker said.
If she hadn’t won, she would have returned, she said.
She was determined to add the most famous running event in the Boise area to her resume.
Barker finished second in October in the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships, her greatest accomplishment as a runner.
“There’s this thing around Boise where everyone asks you, ‘Are you a runner?’ And you say yes. And then they say, ‘Oh, how many times have you done Robie?’ ” she said. “It’s like no matter what you’ve accomplished outside of Robie, they just want to know how many times you’ve done Robie. I got tired of saying I’ve never done it, so here I am – I did it.”