Jonathan Mott stayed patient on Sunday in the 40th Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon.
Mott, of Lakeland, Fla., knew he'd have a hard time running a personal best in the 26.3-mile international race because of wind and high humidity. But neither of those factors prevented him from scoring his first marathon victory.
Mott, 30, stayed conservative, before making a late charge over the final 9 miles to cross the finish line in 2 hours, 22.53 minutes.
"I went into the race knowing the conditions wouldn't be the best or ideal," Mott said. "I pretty much threw my PR out the window at the starting line. I went out conservative with (my first couple of miles in the 5:30s) to see how the field would play out."
Rain, at times heavy, drenched downtown Detroit for much of Saturday and overnight. Thunderstorms were in the forecast for early Sunday, and though it didn't rain during the race, the humidity hovered around 80% and temperatures almost reached 75 degrees. Once runners crossed the Canadian border back into Michigan, they faced around 20 m.p.h. winds.
"No one was running fast out here with the heat, and the wind was pretty bad the second half," Mott said. "I'm not worried about the time (I ran). I'm just happy I won.
"That's why I went out really conservative early on. I'm a 2:18 guy, and I ran a 2:22. It was tough out there."
Mott paced himself once the race began, while several marathoners sprinted out past him.
"I would consider myself a pretty smart racer," he continued. "I know being 70 degrees that no one is running fast. I knew it, so I went out slow.
"The leaders, I saw them. They just flew past me that first mile. I knew they would eventually come back. I just stuck with my plan, and it eventually paid off."
Once Mott exited Canada, he saw the second-place runner, Ethopian native Girma Segni, and began picking up his pace just before the 17-mile mark. Segni, who lives in Bronx, N.Y. finished third at 2:28:42.
"I actually had no idea where I was because I had half-marathoners in front of me," Mott said. "I heard from someone on the side that was telling me I was sitting in third, so I just slowly kept picking up the pace.
"From there, I just kept going without looking back. I passed him pretty good, and I felt really confident, so I just kept going."
By the 20-mile mark, Mott was running each mile at a 5:23 pace, and he already had picked off second-place finisher and Mexican-born runner Christopher Chipsiya, who clocked 2:27.21.
Being conservative at the start of the race ensured fatigue wasn't an issue for Mott during the final 6 miles.
"Running smart and not going with the leader (was key)," he said. "If I can stick to a plan in conditions like this, I know in good weather I can run my race and potentially run a PR."
Mott, who ran cross-country and track and field at NAIA school Webber International University in Babson Park, Fla., called the win the biggest achievement of his career, which includes a 47th-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Los Angeles in 2016 and a recent top-20 finish in the Chicago Marathon.
"Honestly, I was really a no one in high school and college," he said. "It wasn't until after I graduated that I started putting in work. I trained solo. I do everything by myself, so it was all about working hard; running 150-mile weeks is what it took to do this."
Mott received a $4,000 check for his win, but he said he's unsure if he'll return to Detroit to defend his title in 2018.
The Michigan weather is a bit too much for the Florida runner, he said.
"This weather – I was really going into it really negative, mentally," he said. "So that's why I had to completely change my gameplan. I was hoping to come down here and run a PR, but the weather wasn't going to allow me to do that."