Cynthia Holderer (far left), off to a fast start, placed fifth overall.

The Decker Challenge Half Marathon had a triumphant homecoming on Sunday, December 11, returning to the Travis County Expo Center after three years away. Two years were cancelled due to the pandemic, and last year the race was held at the Circuit of the Americas race track.

The fourth race in the Austin Distance Challenge, Decker is one of the oldest races in the central Texas area. This year more than 400 runners braved the hills, which never seem to get any easier no matter how many times you’ve tackled this race.

Cynthia Holderer, fully recovered from her breakthrough 2:46:29 at the BMW Berlin Marathon in September, easily conquered the women’s field, cruising to a 1:24:13 win, posting splits of 19:36 at the 5K mark and 39:54 at 10K. Holderer proved she’s a threat in any division, placing fifth overall. Kristin Star ran 1:36:18 for second, less than a minute ahead of third place Anna Delic, who clocked 1:37:10.

“I’m recovered from Berlin and full on in my training cycle for the Houston Half Marathon,” said Holderer. “My goal in Berlin was to break 2:50, so I had no idea I could run a 2:46.” Headed into Houston’s flat course, Holderer is shooting for a sub-1:20 time. “I’m thinking 1:18,” she said.

“Today was a big training run, with the hills and all,” added Holderer. “It was a lot hillier than I remember. It’s good to go out there and mentally race on a course like this. When you’re running those hills and there’s no one around you and not too many spectators, it’s pretty challenging.”

Newcomer Tyler Shirley led the men’s field, coming home in 1:20:43, ahead of Michael Wilt, who clocked 1:21:34. Christopher Ramirez took third in 1:23:17.

“I ran in high school, but didn’t compete collegiately,” said Shirley, who moved to Austin a year ago. “I’m an engineer, so I sit at a desk most of the day. This is actually my first race since high school in Houston! I did some training on hills so I was mentally prepared, but this is really a memorable course. I had to recalibrate after each hill to face the next one. This is my first half marathon.”

Shirley, a Texas A&M graduate, is running the entire Distance Challenge, so he plans to run the 3M Half on January 22, 2023, and the Austin Marathon on February 19, 2023.

Upcoming races: Sunday, January 1 at 9:00 a.m., the Resolution Run 5K at Gregg Clarke Park in Kyle. Sunday, January 8 at 7:30 a.m., the Rockin’ Resolution Race 5K and Half Marathon at Lake Pflugerville.