Austin road racing returned on Sunday for the first time since February 2020 as the Ascension Seton Austin Half Marathon and 5K lucked out with perfect racing conditions. The skies were clear and the temperature at the start was 52 degrees.
Jordan West, a former Baylor track and cross-country standout and Michael Morris, track and cross-country coach at San Marcos High School, duked it out on the challenging course, with West ultimately prevailing, while Michelle Murray of Greenlawn, NY had a decisive win over Carrie Birth of Fayetteville, AR, in the women’s race. The event, which attracted more than 5,000 runners, was fully sanctioned by the City of Austin and was the largest half-marathon to be held nationwide since events were halted at the onset of the pandemic.
West took off from the start at Second Street and Congress Avenue hitting the first mile in just over 5:00 minute pace, with Morris and Jared Schatz of Tallahassee, FL a few steps behind. Just after turning onto Ben White Boulevard, West passed through the 5K mark in 16:02, with a modest lead on the pair. West took advantage of the downhill stretch on South First Street to open up his stride, dropping his pace to 5:02 a mile, and by 10K (31:24), just before turning onto Cesar Chavez, West had opened up a decent gap on the pair, who trailed him by 25 seconds.
West worked the hilly course on Enfield Boulevard, but Morris, who placed second in the recent Woodlands Marathon, hung tough, always within striking distance. However, he could not close the gap by the finish, as West broke the tape on Ninth Street and Congress in 1:07:31 to Morris’ 1:07:56. Schatz pulled up in third, clocking 1:08:04.
In the women’s race, Murray, a standout runner for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Greenlawn, NY, took the pace out at about 6:30 a mile, with Birth right behind her. She hit the 5K mark in 20:12, and Birth was right there, just few steps behind. As in the men’s race, Murray began to open up a gap on the downhill section of South First, and hit the 10K mark in 39:46, a good 30 seconds ahead of Birth. She continued to build on that lead, ultimately pulling more than three minutes ahead to win in 1:24: 21 to Birth’s 1:27:45. Julia Rhie, who was top master at the 2021 The Woodlands Half Marathon on March 6, took third in 1:29:25.
Commenting on the event, Jack Murray, co-owner of High Five Events, stated, “We are pleased to welcome all those who have taken up running this past year and look forward to seeing the running community continue to grow.”