/, Race Coverage, Road Races/End of An Era for Austin Marathon; Newbies Dominate

End of An Era for Austin Marathon; Newbies Dominate

On a bittersweet morning for John and Stacy Conley and the staff of Conley Sports, the 25th annual Austin Marathon on Sunday morning was their final marathon after 19 years at the helm. But for three of the top four winners in the marathon and half marathon, it was a day of firsts.

The marathon winner—Hayato Sonoda of Fukuoka, Japan—is certainly an experienced marathoner with a 2:17:40 best. But the women’s winner—Chandi Moore of Austin—was only running her second marathon and was hardly expecting to cross the line first. “I never even gave a thought to winning the race,” said Moore, 30-year-old physical therapist. “Really, I just wanted to finish.”

Even the victors in the half marathon—Roy Bowling of Bryan and Tiffanie Marley of Cedar Park–were first timers who were shocked to have won. Said Bowling, a grad student at A&M in geophysics, “I just came down here to run with a friend and had no idea what to expect. Actually, I was hoping to finish somewhere in the top 50.”

On a morning with a persistent 10-12 mph southerly wind, the expected high temps never quite materialized, but the humidity slowed much of the field. Overcast skies hung all morning, which kept the temps in the low 60s and made for much more tolerable conditions that had been forecast.

Leading the field south down Congress and in the lead for almost the entirety of the race (even clear of the top half marathoners), was the two-man contingent from Japan—Sonoda and Yuki Kojina. But Sonoda is much faster than the younger Kojina who is a full-time firefighter in his hometown of Oita. That just so happens to be Austin’s sister city and Kojina was running on a special invitation to celebrate the 25 years of his town’s special relationship with Austin.

Although the two Japanese ran together through the early miles, Sonoda soon pulled away from Kojina just before the six-mile mark. From there, he ran unimpeded to finish in 2:23:29.

“I wanted to use this race as a training run,” said Sonoda, 26, through an interpreter. “My plan was to run 5:30 per mile and then if I felt good, run the last six miles faster. But it’s a very difficult course, much hillier than I thought and that concerned me. I heard a lot of people cheering for me and that pushed me to keep going.”

He didn’t have much to worry about because Kojina never mounted any kind of challenge. “I was just following him,” said the diminutive 25-year-old. “There were so many ups and downs that I didn’t think I could go much faster. I was very pleased with my race.”

Kojina held on for second in 2:30:06, eight minutes slower than his PR. Daniel Bishop of Salt Lake was third in 2:31:51, Dmitry Antonov was fourth in 2:41:51 and Gary Gold of Scottsdale was fifth in 2:45:58. First Austinite was Dan Merchant in seventh in 2:52:31. The first masters runner was Austin’s Jim Moore, 44, who ran 2:57:54.

All told 25 runners broke three hours. That did not include Paul Terranova—just a week removed from a second place finish in the 100-mile championships who was pacing the three-hour group—and still ran a remarkable 3:02 on what has to be tired legs.

Chandi Moore, who was only running her second marathon, was ahead of Terranova’s three-hour pace group for much of the race. She ran in tights despite the warmish morning and the humidity and hills took their eventual toll and at mile 23, her pace began to waver. “Everything was fine up until then,” said Moore who moved to Austin from Portland a year ago. “But then I hit the wall and the pacers passed me.”

Coming down Duval into a head wind slowed her even more, but Moore was able to keep it together and hit the finish on Congress in 3:02:17– a whopping 30-minute PR. Emily McCoy of Austin finished second in 3:04:18 and Julia Vegas of Buda was third in 3:06:59. Hannah Steffan, second last year in 3:03, fell back to fourth in 3:08:11 and Mallory Boudreau of Portland hung on for fifth in 3:08:52. First masters woman was Sandra Currie, 44, of Highlands Ranch who finished in 3:16:05.

In the accompanying half marathon, both Roy Bowling and Tiffanie Marley won by huge margins. Bowling’s time of 1:14:28 bettered Michael Rusnaczyk’s 1:17:14 and Bryan Ruiz’ 1:18:26. Kyle McKinley was fourth in 1:19:12 and Evan Pollock was fifth in 1:19:17. First master of the morning was Richard Main, 48 of Redditch in sixth in 1:19:26.

“I really enjoyed most of the course, but that last hill {up Enfield} was brutal,” said Bowling in training shoes and yet improved his half PR by 10 minutes. “I came down to have fun although it was hard running by myself.”

Tiffanie Marley ran 1:21 at 3M and though her winning time on Sunday was a bit slower—1:24:01– conditions weren’t as optimal as they had been three weeks ago. “I took it pretty easy and didn’t pass the leader {Tara Upshaw}until the big hill at mile 11. Actually what I was doing was trying to sit on her and then make one move to pass her,” said the 33-year-old high school teacher who was coming off foot surgery on both feet.

Upshaw was second in 1:24:11, Carrie Ritter was third in 1:25:33, Amber Reber was fourth in 1:26:48 and Cynthia Lozano rounded out the top five women in 1:26:52. Top masters woman was Jana Gordon-Elliott—40 years old from New York– in 1:32:25.

In the Paramount Break A Leg 5-K, Austin Bussing dominated to win in 14:46 with Ryan Currie second (16:24) and Elliott Peterson third in 17:02. Cate Barrett was fourth overall in 17:28 and first woman with 48-year-old Jennifer Fisher second in 20:47. Fisher was the first masters with John Fischer of Westover, Maryland right behind her in 20:51.

The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon was the final race in the 2015-16 Austin Distance Challenge series. Next year’s race will be taken over by High Five Events who purchased the race from Conley Sports in October.

High Five co-owners Jack Murray, Stacy Keese and Dan Carroll were in evidence Sunday morning, taking notes and a High Five crew was videotaping every aspect of the race in preparation for next year.

Stay tuned for any and all changes in what promises to be a revitalization of Austin’s marathon.