Evan Graves ran through Payson Park on Sunday morning and prepared to turn onto Baxter Boulevard through a water station crowded with enthusiastic volunteers from the University of Southern Maine.

Ahead of him, sunshine sparkled off what water remained at low tide in Back Cove. A gentle breeze that had been a chilly headwind two hours earlier was now pushing him toward the finish line of the 24th Maine Marathon.

“This is great,” he said. “Much better than four years ago.”

Graves, a 34-year-old native of Bar Harbor who now lives in Caribou, won that 2011 race in a downpour. He faded in the final hour and saw his victory margin shrink to 33 seconds.

On Sunday, he led for the final 14 miles of the 26.2-mile out-and-back course and cruised home with a cushion of more than 6 minutes to win in 2 hours, 34 minutes, 59 seconds.

Graves wasn’t the only familiar face wearing a laurel wreath. Leah Frost, a native of Round Pound now living in northeastern Vermont, made it three straight victories by lopping more than four minutes from her time last year to win in 2:47:34.

“My goal was to beat 2:50,” said Frost, 32. “So I was thinking I’d try to run the half in under 1:24, and then there was a woman right behind me at the (turnaround for the) half so I was like, geez, step it up.”

Frost was one of the three women to break 2:55, a time that would have won in seven of the previous eight years. Rachel Coogan, a 24-year-old former rower at Wellesley College who lives in Allston, Massachusetts, was second in 2:53:07 and Mary Pardi, 45, of Falmouth, was third in 2:54:39.

Overall they were seventh, 14th and 15th in a field of 846.

Jenna Krajewski, 35, of Hallowell won her second Maine Half Marathon title in a time of 1:20:20. She also won 13 years ago as a recent graduate of Brown University in a time that was 40 seconds slower than Sunday’s.

“I’m getting older and faster and, hopefully, wiser,” Krajewski said.

Mike Fisher, 31, of Brookline, Massachusetts, won the men’s half by 15 seconds over two-time runner-up Ivan Reznik, 20, of Portland’s sister city in Russia, Archangel, in 1:12:10.

Graves received a congratulatory kiss from his mom, Roxie, at the finish and credited his wife, Erin, for her coaching expertise.

“She said, ‘Make sure you go out slow,’ ” Graves said. “She’s been saying that for a while and I don’t always listen, but finally I think I’m getting a little smarter here. My body’s getting older and I’ve got to be realistic.”

Erin remained home in Caribou with their two young children. Graves set out at 7:45 a.m. Sunday in a temperature of 41 degrees and no hint of the hurricane that some had feared earlier in the week might disrupt the race.

He said he aimed for a mile pace of between 5:55 and 6 minutes, and was able to maintain that most of the way.

“I dropped some 5:40s coming back but it was still comfortable,” he said. “I have a tendency to go out a little hard and it hurts coming back. Maybe the last mile felt a little tight but it wasn’t bad.”

The victory was worth $1,000 to both Graves and Frost.

Robert Ashby, 47, of Brunswick used a late surge to pick up a $500 check for second place, in 2:41:31, with Sean Cameron, 32, of Boston earning $250 for third, less than a minute behind Ashby.

“We were duking it out from about (Mile) 18 on,” Ashby said of the runner-up battle. “He probably got 15 yards on me. With a mile to go I said, ‘OK, time to make the doughnuts. Let’s buckle down and get ‘er done.’ ”

Ashby said he can’t remember how many times he has placed second in this marathon.

“Five or six or seven or eight,” he said.

“Byrne Decker (a six-time champion from Yarmouth) used to beat me every year back in my younger days.”

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