Austin Half marathon runners ready for return of live racing after COVID-19 pause

On Sunday, live running returns to Austin for the first time since February 2020 with the Austin Half Marathon and 5K, and though it won't be as large as the 2019 race, it may well be the largest half-marathon to be held in the country since events were halted at the onset of the pandemic.

Unlike past years, there is no full marathon race or prize money this year, and participation in the half-marathon was reduced by more than 50%, capped at 6,500 runners. More than 5,000 have signed up; the 5K race, which was capped at 500, has sold out, said William Dyson, the communications director for High Five Events, which is organizing the race.

“Our team is ready for this responsibility and excited to bring this event back, after having canceled all of our events since last March,” Murray said.

The course, which starts at Second Street and Congress Avenue and finishes at Ninth Street and Congress, remains the same as previous years. The half-marathon start will be in waves — every five minutes, with assigned start times to ensure low density. Additionally, runners are required to wear masks in the starting and finish areas.

Willie Fowlkes, race director for the Woodlands Marathon, pointed out that in a half-marathon, you have people running along a 13.1-mile route, which is naturally socially distant, so outdoor events like road races are among the safer sports. The Woodlands Marathon, which was held live on March 6, attracted about 3,500 participants, the largest full marathon to be run live since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“I am really excited to join the running community out there,” said Michael Morris, who placed second at the Woodlands and won the 2019 3M Half Marathon. “I know a lot of people have been running and training and just waiting for a live race.”

Even without a prize purse, the Austin Half Marathon has attracted a respectable elite field (including Morris), as runners are eager to race in live events again.

“I am very excited to get back to in-person racing,” said Mark Pinales, a favorite to win the men’s race. “I think a lot of the running community is ready to compete with everyone again.”

Like Pinales, it’s Carrie Birth’s first real chance to compete in a top field since the pandemic began.

“This is my first ‘A’ race in well over a year,” said Birth, a favorite in the women’s race. “It’s a race I have trained for, tapered for, and get to run against a highly competitive field. I have had my eye on this one for months, and literally cannot wait to toe the line and get back to what means so much to so many of us. This is a big first step back to normalcy."

posted Saturday April 24th
by Brom Hoban