By any measure, this is the best weekend of the year for the Austin running community. The level of excitement is palpable as Marathon Sunday approaches. The Austin Marathon or Half Marathon are the best and most prominent events we have that draw the greatest number of out-of-town runners to our fair—running—city.
The Austin Marathon is sold out at 5000 runners, but there is still room in the Austin Half. On-line registration has closed, but you can register in person for the half or the accompanying Paramount 5-K at the Marathon Expo (renamed Marketplace), beginning Friday at the Palmer Events Center from 2-7 p.m and 10-6 on Saturday. You can also switch from the marathon to the half at the Marketplace Expo or the half to the marathon, until all the spots are filled. Those switches will be served on a first-come, first serve basis.
The Austin Marathon has gone through several name and sponsor changes and course alterations in its 22-year history, but one aspect of has remained constant: The race has always catered primarily to the thousands of recreational marathoners and first-timers who are primarily focused on completing the 26.2 or 13.1 miles.
Although the focus of the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon remains on the average runner, for the first time in five years there will be an elite field competing for prize money. In the marathon, the two winners will each earn $3000 and in the half marathon, $1000. There is also bonus money available for meeting certain time standards.
Top locals in the marathon include Erik Stanley and Jennifer Harney, but expected to contend for the top prize is possibly Marnie Staehly (2:55). Abe Toyoyuki (2:15) of Japan and Kimutai Cheruiyot (2:11) and Joseph Kutinda (2:13) of Kenya are expected to push the pace from the front.
In the half marathon, Rory Tunningley—a former UT All American, originally from Lockhart—will be one of the top contenders. Tunningley has only run one half marathon—last month in Houston—but he has the wheels and knows the course to finish in the top three. So does former Vista Ridge HS star Zach Ornelas who now lives in Michigan. They’ll have to deal with several national-class runners, including Craig Leon of Eugene, Oregon who has a 1:04:01 best. Fastest man in the field is Sammy Kiplagat who has a 1:03:14 to his credit.
The Austin Marathon is the crown jewel and final race of the 2013-14 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge. It’s the big enchilada—the one race everyone points toward. The combined fields of the marathon and half will approach 17,000 runners who will make the long loop around Austin, starting at the Bob Bullock Museum at 16th Street and Congress (just north of the Capitol) at 7 a.m.
Without a doubt, Austin’s course is a special one. Beginning and finishing on Congress, the marathon course winds its way through many of the cozy neighborhoods and funky districts that make Austin the unique, friendly city it is.
Check out our various detailed course previews here: Strategy for First Timers, here: Pacing Strategies and here: A Final Look at the Hills of the Marathon and Half Marathon.
In the early going, the course goes south over several hilly miles on Congress before turning north on South 1st along the famed Mexican Mile (a major downhill). The course crosses over Lady Bird Lake around the 8-mile mark at City Hall and then proceeds west along Cesar Chavez and before making a major climb up Exposition, Bull Creek and Shoal Creek. Halfway is on 35th Street, just outside Camp Mabry.
Northcross Mall is the most northern point on the course (mile 18). From there, the race continues east for a mile before finally heading back toward downtown along North Loop (mile 22) and down Duval (mile 23) through the gorgeous Hyde Park district. The course then goes past DKR (25 miles) before the final ascent up a couple of tricky hills on San Jacinto near the Capitol before the climactic finish on Congress Avenue in front of thousands of cheering spectators who await their runners at the finish line.
The course certainly isn’t an easy one as there are plenty of ups and downs, particularly in the first half of the race. More than anything, it’s a marathon that requires tremendous patience (and a strong dose of confidence).
The half marathon and marathon course are identical for the first 11 miles. After climbing Winsted (the frontage road which parallels MoPac), the marathoners head west on Enfield, while the half marathon field goes east over some monstrous hills along 15th Street back toward the Capitol. The half field then loops around the Capitol and at MLK turns back around for the final climb up the San Jac hills and the finish on Congress.
One of the best aspects to running the Austin Marathon is the exceptional weather. Typically, we have cool temps that are ideal for marathoning. But, the weather forecast for Sunday is for unseasonably warm temps, according to KXAN. It will be dry with temperatures in the low 50s at the start, but it should warm up quickly.
A word of caution: Don’t overdress. That is, don’t even think about wearing tights, a jacket or even long sleeves. You’ll be just fine in a singlet and shorts. You might consider wearing a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt to the starting corral and then toss it once the race begins. Also make sure to bring dry clothes to change into after finishing. You can check post-race clothes at the gear check, beginning at 6 a.m. The gear check tent is on Congress, south of the Capitol, near the race finish.
Because it will be warm, also make certain you drink at many of the aid stations sprinkled around the course. Each aid station will have water as well as lemon lime Gatorade. There’s only a couple of ounces in fluid in each cup so you may need to grab a few cups at each station to stay properly hydrated.
The Austin Marathon is the centerpiece of marathon weekend, but there are plenty of other race weekend activities, including the Marathon Marketplace Expo at the Palmer Events Center (900 Barton Springs Road). Here, all entrants in the half and marathon must be pick up their number, timing chip and race packet.
The Marketplace Expo is free and open to the public. There are plenty of cool exhibits, free demonstrations and running clinics, including a session with the Pace Team at noon on Saturday. There will also be a question and answer session with former world-class runners Steve Jones and our own Dick Beardsley at 2 on Saturday.
Again, the half marathon and marathon begin at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. The Paramount 5-K gets underway at 7:30.