1 of 40
Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Jonathan Kotter is cheered on by another runner as he nears the finish line at Liberty Park, winning the Deseret News Marathon in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — When Amber Green ran her first marathon 17 years ago, she had no idea where it would lead her.

“When I was 20, I decided to run the St. George Marathon,” said the 37-year-old mother of three, who won the Deseret News Marathon on Tuesday with a time of 2:54:34.1. “Distance running kind of terrified me. I thought I would just do one marathon, but I learned to love it.”

So through all of life’s twists and turns, through her marriage to Matt Green and the birth of her three boys, now 14, 12, and 10, she kept running.

“I’ve run about 50 marathons, and I’ve placed a lot in the local races. I’ve run Boston, and I’ve run some fun marathons, like one in Japan.”

One of the highlights of her running adventures was qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

“It’s probably one of my top experiences,” Green said. “St. George is always going to be my number one.”

But participating in the Olympic Trials is a unique experience that she worked really hard to earn.

“It’s just an honor to go to the trials,” she said. “It consists of a group of about 200 runners, and they take the top three (to the Olympics). There are maybe 10 to 15 women competing for those spots, realistically. The rest of us are just trying to be part of that and celebrate with them. We’re celebrating the Olympics in our own way.”

Green enjoyed her 2016 experience so much, she decided to try to qualify again.

“It was amazing,” she said of competing in the Olympic Trials in 2016. “It was the energy, and it was just the overall experience. I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience.”

It turns out, for Green, it will be at least a twice-in-a-lifetime experience. Earlier this month in a Minnesota marathon, she qualified with the B Standard, which is under 2 hours and 45 minutes, along with two other Utah women.

“That’s why the Deseret News fits really nicely into my training schedule,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do this race, but it hadn’t ever fit into my training schedule because I was usually racing St. George.”

Because she qualified for the 2020 trials, Green will run St. George, but she won’t race it. That allowed her to finally race a course she’d heard so much about from other runners.

Full Deseret News Marathon results

“The course,” she said of what the biggest attraction was. “Running down Emigration Canyon, the drop in elevation. I love downhill racing. The ending, being able to run on the parade route, that provided a ton of energy.”

She said her family was already heading to Salt Lake City for a short vacation, so they decided to come a day early so Green could check the oldest road race in Utah off her running wish list.

“It was gorgeous,” she said of the course. “Everyone said it would be super hot, but that very last turn toward the finish was the only time I really thought about the heat.”

She acknowledged that the cloud cover that made temperatures more pleasant for the fastest runners evaporated near the end of her race, leaving a good portion of the other marathoners with higher temperatures for those tough miles through Salt Lake City neighborhoods.

“Runners who were out there longer had the heat to deal with,” she said. “I just went out wanting to give a solid effort. I didn’t want to have to go too fast. The first 16 miles were gorgeous. The Foothill miles were hard for me, but once we turned into the city, it was exciting for me.”

Tara Lewis, Lehi, finished second with a time of 3:04:28.8, while Annette Lemanski was third, crossing the finish line near Liberty Park in 3:10:34.4.

Green said she was hoping to have a woman to race against or run with, but she also “really wanted to place first.”

“I’d rather have someone to run with,” she said. “I like to run my own race, but you can do so much better if you have another person.”

In the men’s race, Jonathan Kotter won his fourth consecutive Deseret News Marathon with a time of 2:25:15. Daniel Bishop, who trains with Kotter sometimes, finished second with a time of 2:31:17.7, while Chris Brower, Tremonton, was third, earning a finish time of 2:38:18.5.

Kotter’s mastery of the course is rooted in a sentimental attachment to the marathon. His father competed in the marathon when Kotter was a child, and he grew up watching him finish as part of the family’s Pioneer Day celebration.

2 comments on this story

“For me, it’s kind of a special race because of all our family members have associated with it,” he said. “It feels like a home course. I live in Holladay, and I’ve lived in Sugar House. I do almost all of my training runs on some part of this course. I love running down Emigration Canyon.”

Like Green, Kotter found himself running alone after the first few miles. “I like it both ways,” he said of whether he’d rather run alone or race along side other runners. “They challenge you in different ways.”

The attorney said this race is “one of my favorites for years now” so he’ll likely run it again next year.

Does he think he can make it five consecutive victories?

“I’ll give it a shot,” he said.