Clarks Summit resident Rob Ahrens entered the 20th Annual Steamtown Marathon on Sunday with a goal of finishing in the top five.
Ahrens, 27, achieved that mission by placing third overall in a personal best time of 2:32:24 over the 26.2-mile course stretching from Forest City to Scranton.
According to Ahrens, he was running in second place until about the 23rd mile when he was passed by Peyton Hoyal, of North Carolina.
“I had pretty much no response when he made a move,” Ahrens said. “My legs were gone; I was just trying hard to maintain my position. I was happy with the result, but I know I can do better.”
Ahrens, who previously competed in three marathons, noticed an improvement in his stamina during Sunday’s race.
“As I continue to train for marathons, the point where it’s starting to hurt is coming later and it’s starting to hurt less,” he said. “I just need to keep learning and improving.”
Ahrens, who served as the head cross country coach at Abington Heights from 2009-2013, also participated in a marathon in Akron, Ohio, but always cherishes competing in the Steamtown race.
“For me, the best part is the familiarity of the course and knowing so many people along the way,” he said. “I had people cheering for me by name throughout the race. I know where people will be and look forward to seeing them. It makes the miles go by a little faster. The volunteers and crowd support are phenomenal. It’s a top-class event.”
Fourth-place finisher Justin Clarke also has a connection to the Abingtons.
Clarke, 22, of Factoryville, who excelled in cross country at Lackawanna Trail and Keystone College, completed the course in 2:36:47. He leaned on Ahrens for advice in the days leading up to the event.
“We work together at the National Running Center,” Ahrens said. “We didn’t do much training together because Justin was out of the area for most of the fall and summer, but we ran together during our last workout before the race. It was his first marathon, so it was good to be able to pass along a little of what I know.”
According to Ahrens, although the two didn’t have much contact through the competition, they shared nice moments after finishing the marathon.
“We enjoyed talking about the race and congratulating each other,” he said.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.