Peer pressure compelled Rebecca Walter to compete in her first marathon since 2003. Her friend and training partner, Zusana Tomas, has spent the past several months preparing to represent her native Slovakia as a marathon runner next month in Beijing.
Running day after day with an Olympic athlete eventually rubbed off on the Salt Lake City resident.
"If my friends are training for a marathon, then I guess I'm going to be training for a marathon so I might as well run one, right?" Walter said.
All of the training paid off for Walter in her return to the marathon circuit.
She claimed the top spot in the women's marathon portion of the annual Deseret News Marathon and 10K on Thursday. Walter crossed the finish line at Liberty Park in 3 hours, 1 minute and 11.2 seconds.
Her finishing time put Walter nearly 13 minutes ahead of second-place finisher Megan Peterson, also of Salt Lake City, who finished in 3:13:53.4.
The top of the field in the women's marathon had a definite local flavor to it. Eight of the top nine finishers were residents of Utah.
No one was more thrilled to see Walter's successful transition from doing strictly 10K and 5K races than Tomas. After seeing her post impressive mile times during some of their training runs, Tomas was convinced Walter could make a big splash once she opted to give marathons another try.
"She hasn't done a strong marathon for so long," said Tomas, who was the third Utah finisher in the women's 10K race earlier in the morning. "I really just hoped she would do it. So I'm just really excited to see that she made the decision and ran."
Walter is not sure when she will compete in her next marathon. For now, she is still enjoying the satisfaction of conquering a rugged course that took its toll on her body almost from the moment she started.
Ultimately, what helped her push herself over the finish line was an extra degree of toughness that training with Tomas infused into her.
"She made me train very hard this summer," Walter said.
A nice battle shaped up between Peterson and third-place finisher Allie Scott for the runner-up slot. Scott stayed second behind Walter who led from start to finish most of the way before Peterson caught and passed her during the final 10 miles.
Scott was not disappointed with her finish or her time of 3:18:53.2. It sets up nicely for her to make a run at first place for the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan, which she plans to run in later in the fall."It feels awesome, actually," Scott said of her third-place finish. "I was trying to hold onto second. I think I was in second until mile 17 and I started getting passed which was kind of frustrating. But I picked it up at the end."