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3M Half Marathon: 8000 Expected for Downhill Doozie on Sunday

Bell Wealth ManagementIf there’s one race in Austin which is usually regarded as the best and the one runners return every year, it’s this Sunday’s 19th annual 3M Half Marathon. Long recognized as one of the top half marathons in the country, 3M has earned a substantial national recognition due to its lightning-fast, north-to-south course, peerless race organization and over-the-top goodie bag of 3M products.

The fifth of six races in the 2013-14 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge, 3M has moved back a couple of weeks on the race calendar to afford DC participants a chance to recover from the Rogue 30-K two weeks ago and gives them nearly four weeks to rest up for the final race in the series—the Austin Marathon on February 16th.

Like most of the races in the Distance Challenge, 3M is also held on a hilly course. But, it’s a mostly downhill course which makes it just about the ideal PR course.

As usual, 3M will still start in the far reaches of north Austin outside the Gateway Shopping Center before it begins its downward plunge south toward downtown (there are a few short uphills) through neighborhoods and skirts the UT campus to the finish at the Bob Bullock Museum (17th and MLK) in the shadow of the Texas State Capitol. The finish area in front of the Bob Bullock Museum is where all the post-race festivities (and clothing pickup) will be held.

The race will begin on Stonelake Boulevard, just south of Loop 360 and off MoPac. After a mile on Stonelake, the course heads east for the second mile on Braker, crossing over MoPac, before heading south along Burnet. After snaking through an industrial park, the course picks up Shoal Creek for two nice, gradual downhill miles and then continues on a southerly path down Great Northern (mile 7) before picking up Shoal Creek again. Just past nine miles, the course heads east east on 45th for a mile (a few ups and downs) until at 10 ½ miles, it picks up the always welcome Duval downhill.

The stretch along Duval and San Jacinto is always a favorite as the nearly 2-mile long downhill gives runners a chance to pick up the pace as they head for the finish.

At Martin Luther King Boulevard, the course hits the 13-mile mark and all that’s left is a short, but tricky climb up MLK to the final run-in in front of Bob Bullock.

A major factor in any 3M is the weather. Last year’s cold conditions were ideal. The Sunday forecast looks like there will be more of the same cool, dry weather with some cloud cover. Temps will be in the low 40s at the start and you might need light gloves. If there’s a north wind, it will be at your back for much of the race.

The race will at 7 a.m. along Stonelake Boulevard right outside the Gateway Shopping Center in north Austin. Race officials urge runners to arrive in the starting area no later than 6 a.m. The earlier you can get there the better, as traffic on MoPac is always a mess. Gear check opens at 5:45 a.m. It’s very important to check dry, warm gear at the start so you have something to change into at the finish.

With 7000-8000 runners expected for 3M, parking can be challenging. The best places to park are at Gateway near Dave & Busters, Sam’s or in the parking garage closest to Microsoft. Following the race, there will be transportation back to Gateway, beginning at 8:15 and running until 11:15. Race officials urge runners to park at Gateway as there is much more parking there than near the finish.

This race used to offer substantial prize money, but in the last few years it hasn’t offered any which has chased away some of the top locals such as David Fuentes, Allie Mendez, Rory Tunningley and Rio Reina who are all running the USA Half Marathon Champs in Houston instead.

Last year’s champs were Scott Rantall (1:07:13) of Cedar Park and pro triathlete Kelly Williamson (1:14:41).

Neither event record is likely to even be approached. The record for men is 1:01:05, set in 2009 by Martin Fagan. The women’s mark of 1:09:35 was set in 2008 by Jacqueline Nyetipei.

Since 3M has not reached its 8000-runner cap, there will be last-minute registration available at packet pick up on Friday and Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (6121 North IH-35).

To pick up your infamous race packet at the Crowne Plaza, you’ll need photo ID to pick up your packet. If you are picking up for someone else, you’ll need a signed letter from the participant authorizing it. Or there is a form on the 3M race site. Packet pick up at the Crowne Plaza will be from 11-7 on Friday and 8-6 on Saturday. There is no race day packet pick up.

Beneficiary of 3M is the Communities in Schools of Central Texas. The sponsoring 3M Corporation has guaranteed a $50,000 donation to CIS from race proceeds to help ensure that at-risk students stay in school.

Again, race time is 7 a.m.