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Ultra520K Canada winner shares spotlight with the perfect stranger

Ross Welton becomes the first British triathlete to win Ultra520K Canada, completes the run with Canadian Brad Sawa
ROSS WELTON (left) and Brad Sawa and their supporters approach the finish line of the Ultra 520K Canada race Monday at Memorial Park in Summerland. Welton

Never in the history of Ultraman Canada/Ultra520K Canada have the top two finishers crossed the finish line at the same time for the run.

That happened at Summerland's Memorial Park Monday afternoon with Ross Welton and Brad Sawa. The pair crossed the finish line to complete the run in eight hours, 24 minutes and 17 seconds. Welton became the first British triathlete to win the Ultra520K Canada a total time of 24:57:45 for the three days. Sawa's time was 26:47:08.

When asked about coming into the finish line at the same with Sawa, Welton said it wasn't planned.

"As we started the run, we started off at the same pace and that was it," he said. "All day. There was not a second where we weren’t together. I don’t know Brad. I never met him before these last few days."

Welton joked saying at the finish line they might do a Mr. and Mrs. to see how much they know each other.

"He’s a great guy," said Welton.

When Sawa started the run his plan was to try and hold onto Welton until the 21-km mark, then it changed to 42-km. He said there was some "beautiful suffering going on out there."

Crossing the finish line provided an emotional finish for Sawa, who did not have his family there to celebrate. His wife and kids were in his hometown of Gimli, Man., for the 127th Icelandic Festival of Manitoba called Islendingadagurinn. Sawa's wife is Icelandic. After crossing the finish line he started thinking of them.

"It's very bitter sweet coming in and having a great race and not having them there for the hug," said Sawa. "We will celebrate when I get home. They wanted to be here but I said all of our family is back there for this weekend. It's better for you than following me around a race course. It's a reunion of family. It's a special weekend to us. It's tough for me to be missing it. This was a pretty epic thing to do."

Welton described his victory as amazing.

"I came here last year and I came here to win last year and I had a disaster from start to finish," said Welton. "The run took me 11 hours, 57 minutes. I came here this year just to have some fun and get back with the people who helped me last year and support the race. I love the area. To come and win it without expecting to is amazing. It's great fun."

Welton said the change in approach helped him relax and have fun. He also said having a 45-minute lead to start the run was an advantage.

"I knew I didn’t have to run hard today. It doesn’t make it any easier. I went out fairly easy but you still slow down because the hills , the down hills coming back into Summerland are just mean, it's not a lot of fun," said Welton. "The pressure is off, you can just enjoy it."

The other challenge for Welton was on the second day from Hedley to Princeton running against head wins. Welton said it was all uphill and tough. He said that would have affected most of the athletes on Monday.

Sawa, who lives in Calgary, said it was overwhelming for him to finish second overall.

"I certainly didn’t expect that coming in here," he said. "Based on my training I didn’t think I was capable of running the run I had today. Running with Ross, he’s a true champion, a great guy. I wear he just gave me a lot of confidence out there. It was such a pleasure to run with him."

Penticton's Lisa Fitzgerald finished 11th out of the 13 athletes. It took her 11:46:55 to complete the run for a total time of 32:34:19.

Spain's Franz Hinojosa never ended up doing the race and Canadian George Thucydides didn't finish the bike ride on the first day. It took him 5:46:31 to complete the 10-km swim, then he chose to complete the bike on day two and the run.