The 2012-2013 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge wrapped up last weekend at the Livestrong Marathon, closing the books the latest version of the long-standing series. Started by RunTex in the 90′s, the Distance Challenge in it’s current state features six events and allows participants an option of a Full Track or Half Track. According to Vance Taylor – who has volunteered his time the past two years to manage the series – more than 700 runners registered, a significant jump from last year.
Karen Saenz, no stranger to the Austin road racing scene, led the female division wire to wire. Culminating with a marathon of 3:17 that was good enough for first place in her age group amongst the 4,000+ runners, Saenz took the female overall title by more than 12 minutes. She was so dominant over the series that her time is better than all but eight of the men’s full track competitors.
Taking second was 35-year-old Alisa Gardner, holding off a late-surging Ashley Johnson who gained five minutes in the final two races but wasn’t enough to overcome the near nine minute deficit she faced.
On the men’s side, Wesley Johnson turned in a solid marathon performance to stave off a challenge from Michael Budde. The 45-year-old Budde has competed in five of the last six Austin 26.2 races, but never broken the three hour barrier. Last weekend was his day as he recorded 2:58:09, seven seconds ahead of Johnson after trailing at the 20-mile mark.
Taking third was Taylor Collins, garnering his first Boston Qualifier time with a marathon PR of 3:01.
Added a couple years ago to answer the call of people not wanting to run a full marathon, the half track offers two 10K’s, a 10-miler, and three half marathons. This year more than 300 individuals signed up, making it the largest participation since inception.
Cornelia Kamp and Jennifer Lowry were neck and neck for the entire series with the latter holding a 24 second lead going in to the final 13.1 miles. The 47-year-old Kamp was not to be denied, however, as she closed with a 1:38 – almost as fast as her time at the 3M Half. Lowry cross the finish line 57 seconds later to take third, and Audrey Herold rounded out the top three.
Herold owned a near five minute lead after stellar performances at the IBM 10K and Run for the Water but gave way to Kamp and Lowry at the challenging Decker Half and was never able to regain the lead.
In the men’s division, Michael Chavez used Decker and 3M to put six minutes on his next two competitors which turned out to be the difference maker. Masters stud Peter Huff went in to Livestrong with a one second lead over his third place competitor but left no doubt when he turned in a 1:21:53 last Sunday, outkicking Chavez by six seconds and besting eventual third place winner Tony Orozco.
Orozco actually held a 30 second lead at mile 10, but the steep climb up Enfield/15th did him in as Chavez and Huff sped by to secure their top finishes.
Awards are being distributed on Thursday, March 7 at El Mercado Restaurant on S. First St. All results are available at www.austindistancechallenge.com.