Jon Kotter, the five-time defending champ, will not return to the Deseret News Marathon to defend his title on Friday. The 36-year-old Salt Lake lawyer pulled his hamstring a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s getting better but not fast enough,” he said this week.  “I’d love to run it. I’ll definitely be back next year.”

Kotter, winner of seven of the last nine Deseret News Marathons — including the last five — was closing in on a record even though he didn’t know it. Demetrio Cabanillas won seven consecutive Deseret News marathons from 1976 to 1982 and then boycotted the next couple of races after demanding that the race pay him for his efforts. He won the 1984 and 1987 races to give him nine total victories.

“I wasn’t aware of that,” says Kotter, an all-conference distance runner for BYU from 2007-10. “(Cabanillas) is a local legend.”

Cabanillas’ consecutive-victory streak is safe; Kotter needs two more wins to tie his total wins in the race.

In Kotter’s absence, there are three co-favorites — former winner Fritz Van de Kamp, Mark Summers and Jace Nye. Van de Kamp, who is 41, is a long-established runner in Utah; in 2012, he won the Ogden, St. George and Deseret News marathons and over the years has won more than a dozen ultra-events. Summers is a former Utah State runner. Nye is a former Big Sky Conference champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Race director Corbin Talley says the women’s marathon race is wide open.

The marathon is just one of four races that will go off on Friday morning, along with the half-marathon and the 10,000- and 5,000-meter races.

Those races will feature several national-class runners. Jared Ward, the sixth-place finisher in the 2016 Olympic marathon, will compete in the 10K, along with Rory Linkletter, a former All-America distance runner for BYU.

Grayson Murphy, who won the world mountain-running championship in Argentina in 2019, will be among the favorites in the 10K. A five-time All-American for the University of Utah, she recently finished sixth in the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic trials in Oregon. She set school records in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races and the steeplechase for Utah.

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Murphy will go head-to-head with Lexi Thompson, the Weber State school record holder at 5,000 and 10,000 meters. She earned second-team All-America honors in the 10,000-meter run at this year’s NCAA championships.

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Jordan Cross, a former Weber State athlete who also competed in the U.S. Olympic trials steeplechase this month, will enter the half-marathon.

The Deseret News races were canceled last year due to the pandemic, interrupting a long history of racing. The Deseret News Marathon had been held for 48 consecutive years before the interruption. The Deseret News Marathon is the oldest road race in Utah and the fourth-oldest marathon west of the Continental Divide.

Talley is trying to spread the word that racing has returned to Utah as the pandemic slows. He expects about 2,500 to sign up for this year’s races — down from about 3,000 two years ago. The race, usually held on July 24 (Pioneer Day in Utah), has been moved to Friday the 23rd this year, following the move of the Pioneer Day parade. One of the highlights for marathoners is being able to run along the parade route. “We wanted to stay with the parade,” says Talley.

Registration can be completed online until Wednesday at midnight or in person at the University Park Marriott until Thursday at 8 p.m.

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