/, Race Coverage/Oppressive Humidity Makes for Tough Austin Marathon and Half; David Fuentes Wins Third Austin Half

Oppressive Humidity Makes for Tough Austin Marathon and Half; David Fuentes Wins Third Austin Half

One of the “Golden Rules” of marathoning is a good day for spectators is a bad day for racing. For the third year in a row, temps were ideal for marathon-watching but brutal for marathon running. Actually, the temps weren’t all that bad—it was 59 degrees at the start under a cloud cover—but the humidity soared to nearly 90 percent, making for extremely difficult conditions for the 13,000 runners in the combined marathon and half marathon fields.

Just how tough was the 24th running of the Austin Marathon?

Even the elite runners, who are usually bullet-proof, suffered. Betram Keter of Kenya, who won the marathon in a highly respectable 2:16:08 (seven minutes slower than his PR), said, “I wanted to set the course record today {2:14:17}, but it was just too warm for me to run that fast.”

That feeling was echoed by many all Sunday morning, including Kenya’s Hyvon Ngetich who held a big lead in the women’s marathon, only to cramp and succumb to the debilitating humidity in the last few miles, crawling across the finish line in third in 3:04:02.

Not every runner paid such a high price for the tough conditions. The winners of the half marathon—David Fuentes of Austin, who always runs well in warm weather, and Kristen Zaitz of Broomfield, Colorado—didn’t have any issues with the humidity at all.

Zaitz, who won the half for the second year in a row in 1:14:22, felt that the conditions were better than last year when she ran 1:15:02. “I do a lot of treadmill running,” said the 34-year-old, “and it can be quite warm indoors. I think that prepared me well and felt the conditions were bearable this morning.”

So did Fuentes, who won his third Austin Half Marathon, this year in his fastest (Austin Half) time of 1:07:30, four minutes slower than his personal best, set last summer at the Garry Bjorklund Half in Duluth. The former St. Ed’s runner did have issues though. He stitched in the third mile of the race, but didn’t panic and other than that blip, ran unencumbered the rest of the way and won by nearly two minutes. “I wouldn’t say it was easy—those hills in the last two miles are very tough—but the humidity didn’t bother me. Of the three times I’ve won this race, this was the easiest.”

Clearly, Fuentes is in the best shape of his life as he points toward the Los Angeles Marathon on March 15th. “This wasn’t a fast race for me” said Fuentes who wore a brand-new pair of racing shoes he just got last night, “but it indicates to me I can go out in 1:08:30 in LA and hopefully close in 1:07.”

That remains to be seen, but Fuentes was tucked among the lead pack of Africans—eventual winner Keter and Stanley Boen who would finish second in 2:31:34—as well as half marathon runner up Sphamandia Nyembe of South Africa. The pack clicked off 5:05 miles going south on Congress, but that was way too rich on this morning and the pace eventually slowed to 5:20 per mile.

The marathoners and half marathoners continued to mix it up as they passed City Hall (mile 6 ½) and along Cesar Chavez and Lake Austin Boulevard until the 2500 or so marathoners split and headed north on the long climb up Exposition, while the 9000 half marathoners had their own ascent up Enfield and 15th Street, just outside the Capitol grounds, and the finish on Congress Avenue.

Fuentes, 28, won in 1:07:30 with Nyembe way back in 1:09:22 and Michael Kettler of Louisville, Colorado third in 1:09:37. Jeremy Daum of San Antonio was fourth in 1:11:46 and David Rodriguez of Corpus Christi rounded out the top five in 1:12:01.

The age groupers were led by Patrick Darragh of Austin (40-44) in 1:18:31, Mike Minardi of Cedar Park (45-49) in 1:27:30, Anthony Zaia of Austin (50-54) in 1:24:11, Tim Terwey of Austin (55-59) in 1:27:50, Don Carnes of Austin (60-64) in 1:37:54, Vance Taylor of Lago Vista (64-69) in 1:42:26 and Michael London of Austin (70-74) in 2:05:58.

In the women’s half, Zaitz was an even easier winner than Fuentes. Zaitz, whose last race was the California International Marathon in Sacramento in which she was third in a PR of 2:32:48, won the Austin Half by nearly four minutes (she was seventh overall) over Mexico’s Sara Preito in 1:14:21. Florence Mose of Grand Prairie was third in 1:20:04, Adrian Neal of Colorado Spring was fourth in 1:21:24 and Tara Storage of Beaver Creek, Ohio was fifth in 1:22:18. Brandy Mann was the lone Austinite in the top 10 with a ninth-place finish in 1:24:38.

Age group winners included Aimee Patel of Hamden, Connecticut (40-44) in 1:29:06, Cindy Barbour of Greenboro, North Carolina (45-49) in 1:29:09, Jenny Hitchings of Sacramento (50-54) in 1:24:57, Linda Wagers of Austin (55-59) in 1:39:54, Melissa Savage of Chicago (60-64) in 1:50:57, Chula Sims of Austin (65-69) in 2:07 and Kathy McWilliams of Austin (70-74) in 2:24:50.

The men’s marathon was dominated by Keter, a 27-year-old Kenyan, who cruised to victory in 2:16:19. He took the lead for good at 12 miles and although he had trouble closing the deal, still won by more than 15 minutes over Stanley Boen who finished in 2:31:33. Daniel Bishop of Salt Lake was third in 2:31:48, Thomas Lentz, a 47-year-old from, Cincinnati was fourth in 2:38:06, Adam Waldum of Cedar Park was fifth in 2:38:18 and Bryan Morton of Austin, who was pacing a group of women trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon (none did)), was sixth in 2:42:05. Marc Bergman of Austin was ninth in 2:44:49.

Gilbert Tuhabonye, the head of Gilbert’s Gazelles, returned to the Austin Marathon for the first time since 2003, and was the second masters runner (first in his age 40-44 age group) in 2:52:32. Lentz was the first masters runner of the day and won his 45-49 age group, while Michael Woo—an engineer at race sponsor Freescale—won the 50-54 group in 3:14:26. The indomitable John Potts of Georgetown crushed his age group (55-59) in 2:59:07 (Jeff Lucado was second in 3:13:09), Richard Ballinger of Austin won the 60-64 in 3:39:30 and Gene Dykes of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania took the 65-69 crown in 3:32:42.

Cynthia Jerop, another Kenyan, was the class of the women marathoners, winning in 2:54:21 with Hannah Steffan of Austin second in 3:03:59. It was poetic justice for Steffan who would have finished third last year, but was disqualified for wearing a teammates’ number. Ngetich crawled across the finish line for third in 3:04:02, just ahead of Austin’s Amber Reber in fourth in 3:05:49 with her friend—Keri Rimel in fifth in 3:09:16.

Rimel was the first master woman (40-44). Stacey Hanf of St. Helens, Oregon (45-49) took her division in 3:30:21, Mary Christine Reed of Austin (50-54) won her’s in 3:31:41, Mary Faria of Austin tip toed around the course to win (55-59) in 3:45:33 and Sherry Pipkin of Colleyville (60-64) took her division in 4:12.

Fittingly, newly elected Austin mayor Steve Adler, who ran the marathon several years ago, was much in evidence, handing out awards to the winners, holding the finish banner and slapping high fives with finishers. When asked if he’d run the Austin Marathon again, Adler replied: “I’d like to, but I did so much running this fall {for mayor} that I wasn’t in shape to go the distance today.”

Logistically, the new start and improved courses, were certainly winners. The aid stations, staffed with hundreds of volunteers, were excellent, and the new cheering section along Cesar Chavez, staffed by Freescale employees, was loud and enthusiastic. (Thank you Freescale. It’s was especially fitting to have Freescale back as the presenting sponsor as Freescale—i.e., Motorola—was responsible for getting this marathon off the ground 24 years ago.)

While any marathon is difficult, the Austin course remains one of the tougher courses of any city course in the country and this year, it was once again made doubly difficult by the unseasonable weather.

The Austin Marathon was the final race of the 2014-15 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge series.

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