Marci Klimek heads back after making the turnaround on her way to winning her sixth Pear Blossom Run women's crown. [ANDY ATKINSON/FOR THE MAIL TRIBUNE]

Klimek rebounds for sixth women’s win

Marci Klimek was supposed to do this last year.

The perennial Pear Blossom Run women’s champion had a streak of five straight victories and was on the verge of matching the record of six in a row when an injury sidelined her.

On Saturday, she picked up where she left off, winning the 41st annual 10-mile road race in 57 minutes, 15 seconds.

“I’m really happy with it,” said the former Phoenix High and Linfield College running ace, who moved from Bend to Cambridge, Massachusetts, a little more than a year ago. “This is one of the longest races I’ve done in the last couple years.”

Klimek’s sixth title moved her closer to Deanna Schiedler-O’Neil’s record of nine set in 2003. Schiedler-O’Neil also has the mark of six straight wins, established in the 1990s.

Heather Johnson, of Medford, was second in 1:01:45, and Medford’s Madison McCarthy was third in 1:05:01.

Rosa Gutierrez, a three-time champion who last won in 2004, was fourth. The 53-year-old from San Jose, California, was timed in 1:05:15. Fifth place went to Natalie Chirgwin, of Ashland, in 1:06:46.

Klimek had been a Pear Blossom mainstay since she entered it and started winning in 2011 following her college career.

In fact, her likeness was on a banner at the YMCA this week encouraging people to enter, and the image is planned for a billboard in town in the near future.

But her desire to return to the Pear Blossom — or to do any kind of running — was curtailed in November 2015 when she suffered a stress fracture in her pelvis.

The injury occurred because she put so many miles into training for the Olympic Marathon Trials the following February.

She was idle until last May.

“I couldn’t even get in the pool or get on the bike or anything,” she said. “Like, putting on pants was painful. Sitting was painful. I was going stir crazy.”

In the midst of that, Klimek moved to the Boston area, where she works in an administrative capacity in the sports medicine department at Massachusetts General Hospital.

She also is close to the headquarters of Saucony, the running apparel company that sponsors her.

“It’s been very different,” said Klimek, 29. “I’ve been doing a lot of indoor track. There isn’t anywhere out here to do that, so it’s been a whole new experience. It’s really nice to come back and do something that’s familiar and something I’m used to.

“It’s kind of a like a homecoming.”

One thing she’s used to is winning, and Saturday was no different.

She had a bit of trepidation because most of her work and competitions had been at shorter distances since her injury.

Her plan was to be conservative at the start and pick up the pace following the turnaround at the halfway point.

“We had a good pack of probably four or five guys and me on the way out,” said Klimek, “and then kind of at the turnaround, it broke up a little bit. The lead group of guys was so far out I couldn’t even see them. But at that point, you’re back to the crowds and have a lot of people cheering, and you get a lot of energy off that.”

Runner-up Johnson was fairly close at the turnaround, and Klimek “gave her a little wave,” she said.

Klimek’s time was better than she expected and was only 11 seconds off the course record of 57:04 she set two years ago.

“I was like, dang it, I wish I would have gone out a little faster, if I would have known,” she said. “But there’s always next year.”

One reason Klimek wanted to take it easy at the outset is her entry in a race next weekend that’s part of the Boston Marathon festivities.

The elite 5-kilometer race produced the women’s American record in 2015.

“It’s much shorter but really, really competitive,” said Klimek, “so I’ll get my tail handed to me.”

In the Pear Blossom 5K women’s race, Sera Mathewes, of Ashland, won in 18:40. Grants Pass’ Vicki Boyer was second in 19:46, and Medford’s Emma Schmerbach, a 13-year-old, was third in 20:00.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email

Share This Story