One week out from one of the biggest races on the Austin Calendar: The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon. This year, the 2018 Austin Marathon has a total prize purse of $20,000. The marathon prize purse totals $15,000 and the half marathon prize purse totals $5,000. That’s twice as much as last year!

And guess what? Increased prize money means a bigger, faster elite field, and this year’s men’s and women’s fields for the marathon reflect that. Let’s take a look at the top three men and top three women picks for the full marathon. As a bonus, each of these elites has a race-day tip for you!


Sphamandla Nyembe, a South African runner who won the Fidelity Woodlands Marathon in 2:21:27 is  also the 2017 Austin Half Marathon champ (1:11:36). Growing up in the small town of Dannhouser, in the Province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, Nyembe is probably not as accustomed to cold weather as we are. Sphamandla’s race-day tip for you:Athletes must arrive early for the start and must make sure they keep themselves warm as the weather is always freezing in the morning in February.

Craig Leon has to be considered the odds-on favorite. His 2:13:41 run less than a year ago at the 2017 US Marathon championships, makes him the fastest in the field. Plus, the guy is pretty consistent. He placed in the top 12 twice in the Boston Marathon once in 2013, and again in 2014, and finished fifth in the Pan AM Games in 2015. Craig’s race-day tip for you: “Be adaptable. Races almost never go according to how we plan it, so it’s important to be flexible on race day. Try and focus on the things you can control and remember that things don’t have to be perfect for you to run well. Allow the energy of the race to get you through those rough patches!”

This year’s Austin marathon features a stacked elite field.

Austin’s own David Fuentes has won the San Antonio Rock ‘n Roll Marathon (2011 in 2:28:10) and is a three-time Austin Half Marathon champ. He also helped the USA Mountain Running Team to two gold medals. But this is his first shot at the full marathon in his home town. David’s race-day tip for you:“Prepare for the hills. Hills are speedwork in disguise, and the Austin course has a fair amount of up and down hills that can take it out of your legs.”


Defending Austin Marathon champ Allison Macsas may be hard to beat. Macsas, a 2012 and 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, boasts a marathon PR of 2:39:41, and has a unique approach to training: she is co-founder of Rogue Expeditions, an adventure travel company for runners, and literally gets her training in on the run. Allison’s race-day tip for you: “Focus on efforts, not paces. This course is covered in rolling hills, and your pace is naturally going to be faster while descending; you’ll drive yourself crazy if you keep checking your watch! The more important thing to do is to pay attention to how you feel, and make sure that you feel relaxed for the first half – any faster is likely to cause problems in the later miles! I personally like to check my watch in 3-4-mile intervals, to get a more realistic idea of my average pace.”

D’Ann Arthur is a native Texan and former cross-country runner at Trinity University. Currently a third-year resident in orthopedic surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Arthur ran a 2:46:50 at California’s Orange County Marathon in 2016. D’Ann’s race-day tip for you: When it starts to get tough, smile and remind yourself that you signed up for this and push yourself to run a race you can be proud of.”

Though she’s a relative latecomer to competitive running, Caitlin Batten has made up for her late start. A two-time Beer Mile World Champion, she’s also a serious threat in the marathon. With a marathon PR of 2:49:03, she’s definitely going to be in the mix. Caitlin’s race-day tip for you: “Be honest with yourself about what pace you are capable of running. If you have trained appropriately this should not be an issue, but race day is not the time to set an overly ambitious pace goal that you have not been able to hit in training. If anything, start out on the conservative side of your realistic pace goal and pick it up the second half if you feel good. There is nothing worse than getting to the halfway mark and realizing you went out too fast.”

Upcoming Races: Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, Sunday, February 18, at 7:00 a.m. in downtown Austin.