Jared and Megan Carson are expecting their first child—a son—any day now. The soon-to-be pops provided an early birthday present on Sunday morning by winning the 22nd annual 3M Half Marathon in 1:08:23. It was the first half marathon victory of Carson’s life and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the expectant parents.

For Kristin Zaitz, it was just another women’s division victory on her way to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles on February 14th. The 35-year-old, who will be competing in her third Olympic Trials, was an easy winner among the women in 1:13:51 which bettered her 3M personal best of 1:14:22, set last year. With the victory she joins Kelly Williamson as the only other female back-to-back winner in the event’s 14-year history.

More than 6200 runners set off on a beautiful morning for running from the Gateway Shopping Center on the gradually sloping downhill course to the finish at the Bob Bullock Museum on the north side of the Texas State Capitol grounds. Conditions were just about perfect: clear, cold (34 degrees) and with just a hint of a north wind.

Asserting himself right from the gun was Carson—a rep for Asics shoes—who ran his half PR of 67:02 in the ’13 edition of 3M. Carson took off with a 5:08 opening mile along with Bryan Morton and Adam Waldum, who had won the Rogue 30-K, just two weeks ago.

Morton was second at 3M last year in a PR of 1:07:16 and would ordinarily have been considered a threat to Carson. But, Morton had just come back from back-to-back road trips, had moved into a new house the prior week and was still feeling the lingering effects of the Cal International Marathon from last month. So, rather than race, Morton was out to run with and support Carson.

The two flew down Shoal Creek and Great Northern, averaging about 5:12 per mile, with Waldum a few meters back. “I felt pretty good out there,” said Carson, who is originally from Atlanta but has lived here three years. “I wasn’t exactly sure of my fitness so it was definitely nice having Bryan out there to run with me.”

No doubt.

Then, at about the nine-mile mark, when the course heads east on the rolling hills of 45th Avenue, Morton dropped off the pace, leaving his friend all alone in the lead.

“I still felt in control at that point,” said Carson, “but didn’t want to push it too hard. I just wasn’t sure about what condition I was in.” Part of Carson’s reluctance was due to the fact that he had suffered for more than 1½ years with an Achilles injury and had only returned to actual training in October.

From the top of Duval to the finish in front of Bob Bullock, Carson ran unopposed to win in 1:08:23. Waldum took second in 1:09:28 and Morton cruised to third in 1:11:09. Brian Schneider was fourth in 1:12:57 and Mike Kurvach rounded out the top five in 1:13:06.

“My goal this morning was to just break 69 minutes,” said Carson, “so I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I wanted to get one good race in before the baby comes because after that I know our lives will be very different.”

First masters of the morning was Larry Bright, who finished 21st overall, in 1:18:03, just missing his sub-1:18 goal. Right behind him was the second masters–Jim Moore—in 1:18:16. Third went to Tommy Wisloff in 1:19:23.

Women’s winner Kristen Zaitz is from the very cold, very high Evergreen, Colorado and one of the reasons she returned to Austin for 3M was to run a warmer race at sea level and get ready for the expected moderate temps of Los Angeles. “Actually, I don’t like to run in the cold at all,” said Zaitz.

No such luck. Still, 3M was just about the ideal tune up for her. “My plan was to run at 70-75 percent of my max effort and just run within myself,” said Zaitz who ran 14 miles on Saturday. “My legs are a little dead from all the marathon training I’ve been doing so I’m definitely pleased with how I ran this morning.”

She maintained a fairly steady 5:35 pace all the way through the finish. The only accompaniment she had were from other male runners. Said Ryan Hess who ran with her through the early miles, “We hooked up right near the start and thought I could help her with pacing, but she gradually just pulled away from me.”

Zaitz finished 10th overall (Hess was 12th) in 1:13:51, about a minute slower than her PR of 1:12:57, set in 2007.

Finishing second to Zaitz was Elizabeth Northern of Fort Worth, another Olympic Trials qualifier in her final tuneup. Northern finished 15th overall in 1:16:14. Third was Megan Mueller of Austin who was 33rd overall in 1:19:27. Melissa Cunningham of Boulder was fourth in 1:21:22 and Tiffanie Marley of Cedar Park captured fifth in 1:21:35.

The 3M Half was the fifth of the six-race Austin Distance Challenge series with only the Austin Marathon (February 14th) left on the schedule.

3M Half Results