West Jefferson man wins marathon

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Photo by Greg Sailor/Columbus Marathon

Robb Kestner of West Jefferson crosses the finish line in first place at the 28th annual Columbus Marathon. Race day conditions started with a temperature in the low-50s, but heated up and got windy as the morning progressed. Despite Mother Nature’s challenges, Kestner posted a personal best time of 2:31:48. 

Robb Kestner’s first foray into distance running came in the form of punishment.

“I got in trouble in gym class because I jumped up and touched the basketball net. I had to run 100 laps around the gym, and I was surprised—it wasn’t that hard,” he said.

Kestner, now 32 and a resident of West Jefferson, got an even bigger surprise on Oct. 21 when he won the Columbus Marathon. He is the first central Ohio resident to claim the title in the race’s 28-year history.

“I didn’t expect to be the one breaking the tape,” he said.

In only his fourth marathon start, Kestner covered the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 48 seconds, a time that beat his previous personal best by 20 minutes.

Kestner credits his performance, in part, to his fellow competitors.

“I had somebody to chase—the guy who ended up taking third place,” he said, referring to James Sjostrom of Aurora, Ohio. “He took out at an aggressive pace. He ran with a lot of guts. I was really fortunate to catch him when I did at about 24 miles.”

Kestner led an Ohio-dominated top 10 that included Dublin resident Chuck Engle who finished second in a time of 2:33:41 and Sjostrom who took third in 2:37:39. Nine of the top 10 finishers were residents of the Buckeye State.

To prepare for the marathon, Kestner ran 12 to 22 miles per day for a minimum of 100 miles per week, with no planned days off. He did most of his training in and around West Jefferson.

“One of the nice things about living in West Jefferson is that there are a lot of long loop courses and not a lot of traffic during the day,” he said.

As for what his fellow residents think about his running obsession, Kestner said, “All my neighbors think I’m nuts.”

Whether or not his wife, Jennifer, shares that sentiment is not known, but her support of Kestner’s pursuits has been unflagging.

“Without support at home, this is a really hard goal to accomplish. My wife has been great. She let me slack on chores for the last six months,” Kestner said.

Jennifer and other family members were at the finish line last Sunday when Kestner broke the tape.

“Whether you run it in 2:30 or 5:30, you don’t do it alone,” Kestner said.

Originally from Painesville in northeast Ohio, Kestner has lived in West Jefferson for five years. He is a lawyer by trade.

This year’s Columbus Marathon attracted a record field of 10,000 participants. The event included marathon, half-marathon, and wheelchair divisions.

The top three finishers in the women’s marathon division were: Kelly Stewart from Rochester Hills, Mich., 2:43:28; Jessica Gail from Bloomington, Ind., 2:44:38; and Melissa Keesee from Columbus, Ohio, 2:51:33.

The top finishers in the men’s and women’s divisions of the half-marathon set course records: Thomas “T.J.” Lentz of Cincinnati, 1:09:32, and Jill Scully of Valparaiso, Ind., 1:20:27. Neal Holtschulte of nearby Marysville placed fourth in the men’s half-marathon in 1:11:44.

Kevin Hosea of Champaign, Ill., defended his title as winner of the open wheelchair division of the marathon, finishing the course in 1:55:57.

For more information about the Columbus Marathon, go to www.columbusmarathon.com.

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