SALT LAKE CITY — It was not an ideal start to a 26.2-mile race.
Fritz Van de Kamp was feeling relaxed and ready to compete in the Deseret News Marathon on Tuesday morning until about 15 minutes before race time.
That's when he discovered he'd lost two crucial tools for distance runners — his watch and his Gu (which is carbohydrates and electrolytes in easily consumed packets). But thanks to an assist from a high school friend and a couple of other runners, he was able to improvise and win the Deseret News Marathon with a time of 2:21:58.2.
The 32-year-old Salt Lake man was resting in some brush near the starting gate when he decided to head to the tent and make his final preparations.
"I'd left my watch sitting in the weeds before the race," he said. He went back and searched, but it was dark at 5:30 a.m. on Big Mountain and he couldn't see his belongings.
He ran into a high school friend whom he often sees at races.
"Brandon Watson was so nice," said Van de Kamp, whose victory was his third marathon win in Utah this year. He also won the Salt Lake and Ogden marathons, in April and May, respectively. "He had a cell phone that we used as a flashlight, but we couldn't find it."
The watch is important because it would offer Van de Kamp splits that would keep him on track. The pair searched until the announcer warned runners they had just five minutes until the start of the race.
"I was all flustered when I got to the start line," he said. "Then Brandon said, 'Here, take my watch.' It was a basic wrist watch, and I said, 'No, I can't take your watch.' But he insisted. He was very gracious, and I'm forever thankful."
Once Van de Kamp had at least some form of time-keeping mechanism, he realized he'd also left his Gu in the brush. Without that, he would risk not having the energy to run the kind of race he'd planned.
"In my mind, that was a bigger deal than the watch," he said. "We were right there at the start line, a friend of mine Annie O'Donnell, the overall women's winner, gave me one of hers and another friend gave me one of his. I really lucked out."
He admits he was frustrated and not in the best frame of mind to start the race but, a couple of miles in, he said he was able to focus on just running.
"I let go of that and got into the groove," he said, admitting he had to ask another runner for splits during the race. "Also having run the race last year, I knew how to gauge how fast I should be going."
When the man he was running with surged at mile 14, Van de Kamp did not follow him.
"I didn't want to go after him because I knew there was a lot of race left," he said.
He said he loves to compete in Utah races, and he's run the Deseret News marathon five times.
"I like the course," he said, "because it's kind of different. You have to strategize."
Like O'Donnell, he was grateful for the unseasonably cool weather Tuesday morning — including a few rain showers.
"I think it was to our benefit," he said of the more than 600 people who ran the marathon. "The conditions for this time of year couldn't have been better."
Alden Bahr, 24, Provo, finished second in the marathon with a time of 2:24:40.8; Alexander Pachev, 39, Provo, was third with a finish time of 2:34:09.8.
Van de Kamp planned to return Watson's watch Tuesday evening.
"I probably owe him a lot more than just returning his watch," he said with a laugh.