More than 4300 runners are expected on Sunday for one of the crown jewels of the Austin racing calendar—the 3M Half Marathon. The fifth of six races in the RunTex Distance Challenge, 3M has earned a national reputation as one of the best half marathons in the country due in large part to a lightning fast, PR course which starts in north Austin and plunges toward downtown. Like last year, the revised course will finish on Trinity Street at Waterloo Park.
The 14th running of the 3M Half will still begin at 7 a.m. at the traditional sport: on Stonelake Boulevard (between Baby A’s and the Embassy Suites) right outside the Gateway Shopping Center in north Austin. The course will roll south on a mostly downhill trek toward downtown with the finish on Trinity, near Waterloo Park at 15th Street where all the post-race festivities will be held.
(After the race, there will be transportation back to Gateway if you have parked your car there. Race officials urge runners to park at Gateway as there is more parking than near Waterloo.)
"The briskness of the registration pace has been a pleasant surprise," says long-time race director Matt Fagan of 3M. "With more aggressive promotion and the early filling of the Houston Marathon, as well as the popularity of the AT&T Austin Marathon and Half which we funnel into, we are assured of a record number of runners this year."
Although there’s a two-person relay and a kids run, almost all the registrants are in the individual half marathon and most are hoping for a fast time or personal best. There’s always plenty of incentive to run fast at 3M. It’s one of the premier half marathon courses in the country and it has drawn the attention of elite runners from around the world. Total prize money of $18,250 tends to get the top runners’ attention. Winners get $1500 (with incentives for event records) and goes down through the top 10. There’s also prize money in the masters divisions.
Some of the top men coming to Austin include defending champion Alen Reta of Ethiopia who ran 1:01:46 last year on this course and possibly has a shot at Andres Espinosa’s event record of 1:01:16, set in 1999. Other top entrants are Wesley Ochoro and Lamech Mokono of Kenya who both ran 1:04 at the Orange County Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago.
The top American coming to town is Joe Driscoll who finished eighth last year. Some of the top locals include Derick Williamson (who won the AT&T Austin Half last year), Paul Pugh, Adam Reiser, Patrick Evoe and masters stud Paul Zimmerman of Cedar Creek.
The women will be led once again by defending champ Kathy Butler of Great Britain (who trains in Nederland, Colorado). She ran 1:11:12 last year, but will certainly have her hands full with three young Kenyans—Rose Kosgei, Everlyne Lagat and Magdalene Mukuniz who has run 1:11:10 for the half. If conditions are ideal, Mukuniz might be a threat to Sylvia Mosqueda’s event record of 1:09:52, set in 2004.
Nationally prominent masters in the field include Albina Gallyamova who ran 1:15:50 last year and Debbie Torneden who was third a year ago among the masters women.
Also expected to challenge for top five places are three Austinites: Chris Kimbrough, Desiree Ficker and Kelly Handel. Ficker, in particular, is in top shape. Two weeks ago, she won the South African Half Ironman Championship and the week before that won the ARA 30-K over a super hilly course. Ficker had a great 22-mile workout on Saturday and has indicated that she hopes to better the 1:14:10 (third overall) she ran last year.
Beneficiary of 3M is the Any Baby Can Foundation of Austin.. The sponsoring 3M Corporation has guaranteed a $30,000 donation to the foundation from race proceeds. Over the years, 3M has raised nearly $250,000 for worthy Central Texas charities.
The weather looks good for Sunday. The frigid temperatures that have plagued Central Texas for days should be gone and replaced with mild conditions. Expect raceday temps to be in the mid to upper 50s.
Packet pickup and registration is Friday (10-7) and Saturday (10-6) at the downtown location of RunTex (422 W. Riverside). There is raceday packet pickup near the start, beginning at 6 a.m.