Allie Kieffer makes quick work for her 3M Half Marathon win, while Joseph Gray wins a close one
World-class runner Allie Kieffer keeps a low racing profile here in Austin, but when she does race, she wins.
A last-minute entry in this year's 3M Half Marathon, Kieffer took advantage of ideal running conditions Sunday morning — mid-40s and clear — to add another victory to her Austin racing résumé, while Joseph Gray, a World Mountain Running champion, topped the men’s field.
Even though Kieffer has a perfect record in Austin, Sunday's 3M win was somewhat of a redemption for her. Running in the highly competitive Barron Collier Companies Naples Half Marathon last week in Florida, she went off course, losing her lead and placing fourth.
“I took a wrong turn at the Naples Half, so I couldn’t cross the line first,” Kieffer said. “So today I was thinking, ‘I want to win.' I was feeling pretty competitive.
“I wasn’t intending to race today,” she added. “Initially I was just going to pace it with a friend, but I couldn’t find him at the start.”
Kieffer took off from the starting line on Stonelake Boulevard in North Austin at a brisk pace of 5 minutes, 52 seconds per mile, with Karen Bertasso-Hughes and Shannon Gaden about 50 yards back. Kieffer hit the 5-kilometer split in 18:14, with Bertasso-Hughes just nine seconds behind.
The 3M race is known for its “downhill to downtown” course, and Kieffer worked every downhill. By the 10K mark (36:31) on Great Northern Boulevard, she had a 23-second lead on Bertasso-Hughes.
“When I took the lead around 3 miles, I just didn’t look back,” Kieffer said.
She stepped on the gas after the 15K mark (9.3 miles) on Shoal Creek Boulevard, dropping the pace to 5:50 a mile, gaining more than a minute ahead of Bertasso-Hughes in the process. Kieffer crossed the finish line on San Jacinto Boulevard in 1:16:24, leaving Bertasso-Hughes and Gaden to battle for second. Gaden prevailed 1:17:00 to 1:17:49. Caroline Brooks came in fourth in 1:17:53, with Elizabeth Laseter rounding out the top five in 1:18:04.
“Allie was so far ahead that we were just racing for second place,” said Gaden, a newcomer to Austin by way of Denver. “I was able to catch her (Bertasso-Hughes) around 10 miles.”
“I’m really happy. … I felt surprisingly good. I needed to win this race,” said Kieffer, who plans to run the Ascension Seton Austin Half Marathon next month and is looking to run an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time next fall at the BMW Berlin Marathon.
The men’s race featured a stirring duel between Colorado Springs’ Gray and Austin’s Mitch Ammons, a 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier.
Gray, Ammons and University of Texas ace Kobe Yepez formed the lead pack in the early miles, passing through the 5K mark together in 15:17. But after that it was a two-man race as Gray and Ammons pulled away. Ammons took the lead at 10K, passing the mark in 30:33, just six seconds ahead of Gray. But by 15K (45:52) they were stride for stride, with 2019 3M champ Michael Morris moving into third place ahead of Yepez.
In a sprint to the finish line, Gray edged Ammons 1:04:23 to 1:04:27. Morris, the track and cross-country head coach at San Marcos High School, took third in 1:06:07, with Al Maeder fourth in 1:06:31 and Yepez fifth in 1:06:51.
“This was my first race of the year. Actually my first race in a while, so I wanted to be smart and run a progressive effort,” said Gray, a dominant figure in Colorado’s mountain running scene. “Mitch is a strong runner and made it an honest effort.”
Approximately 4,500 runners finished the race, the fifth in the Austin Distance Challenge. The sixth and final event is the Austin Marathon on Feb. 19.
“I found out two minutes before the race that there was a champion mountain runner entered, who’d gone 1:03 for the half-marathon," Ammons said. "We were yo-yoing back and forth the whole way. He’d pull ahead on the uphills, and I’d lead on the downhills. It was a lot of fun. My time was a personal best for me by more than a minute, and I wouldn’t have run this fast if it weren’t for Joe. He pushed me a lot. I really, really tried to catch him on the final straight. I gave it everything I had.”
posted Monday January 23rd
by Brom Hoban