LAHAINA - Walt Spangler is enjoying his new home.
The Savannah, Ga., native is just finishing an eight-year Army stint as an officer in the infantry and special forces - he had deployments to Afghanistan and the Philippines - and has recently moved to Maui.
On Sunday morning, he won the Maui Oceanfront Marathon in 2 hours, 45 minutes, 38 seconds.
Walt Spangler wins Sunday’s Maui Oceanfront Marathon, crossing the finish line at Kamehameha Iki Park with a time of 2 hours, 45 minutes, 38 seconds.
The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo
Shawna Jones was the women’s winner, with a time of 3:08:42
The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo
"My wife and I and our two kids just moved down to Paia and will be in Wailuku in about a week," the 30-year-old Valdosta State graduate said as he caught his breath in the shade of Kamehameha Iki Park. "I'm going to be here the rest of my life. I love it here."
Shawna Jones of Raleigh, N.C., was the women's winner in 3:08:42, which was eighth overall.
Spangler's expectations were basically just to get in a longer Sunday run than he normally does.
"I've always been a runner," he said. "I did a little running in high school. I started getting into marathons when I joined the military and just fell in love with it. I really wanted to bust 2:50 - I didn't think it was going to happen, but, sure enough, it did. I'm really surprised."
Spangler has run in "five or six" marathons, but Sunday's win was his first.
"This is my personal best - I have always been in the 2:55, 2:54 range," he said. "Today, I busted it quite a bit. The race was great. The race was flat, right along the beach there. Obviously the hills didn't help me out too much, going through the tunnel about mile 13, but overall great race."
Spangler separated from the field within the first three miles.
"I went out probably a little too fast - I always do - but overall I maintained the pace, anywhere from 6:07 to 7-minute-mile pace."
He finished with a pace of 6:20.
"When you're out in front, it's a good feeling," he said. "I don't like other people around me when I'm competing. That means you have to work harder."
Spangler's wife was with their children - Kiana, 18 months, and Kailea, three months.
"It'll be cool in a few years that I can tell them, 'Dad won a race,' " Walt Spangler said. "I'm guessing my wife is going to be pretty surprised. I mean, I surprised myself today. I didn't think I was going to win."
While the Spangler children will have to be told of their father's first marathon victory, Jones, 43, had her kids - 14-year-old Savannah and 12-year-old Sterling - along with husband David waiting at the finish line to watch her first win in her 22nd marathon.
Savannah Jones, who competes for the Broughton High School cross country team that her mother coaches, ran the 10K on Sunday.
"It is awesome, it is glorious," said Shawna Jones, who ran collegiately at Iowa State. "It is such a glorious race and they did a great job. The prayer at the start was really cool."
Jones ran in a bright orange tennis skirt.
"I was going to run in a tutu, but I didn't want to pack it," she said.
She wasn't sure she would win, despite running nearly all of the race by herself.
"I was scared in the beginning because I was running pretty even with some of the men," she said. "Then I was third overall, there were two men in front of me, and then I just tried to hold on."
The thought that helped her keep the lead was a familiar message.
"I kept thinking of my cross country athletes and how I encourage them to keep going," she said. "So, I just kept going."
Albert Han of Seattle won the half-marathon in 1:16:41, just 31 seconds in front of Rachel Jaten, the women's winner from Spokane, Wash.
"We just came here for vacation and the woman next to us on the plane was going to run the marathon, so my wife said, 'Let's run the half,' " Han said. "It's pretty cool to win. It's awesome."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com