The 3M Half Marathon turned into a contest between the distance running superpowers of Kenya and Ethiopia, with a runner from each country taking a share of the glory on Sunday.
Kenya's Stephen Muange held off Ethiopia's Girma Tolla to top the men's field in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 14 seconds. On the women's side, Hirut Mandefro of Ethiopia defended her title, finishing in 1:15:27, six seconds ahead of Russia's Sventlana Demidenko .
The top American runners were notably absent, most competing in the USA Half Marathon national championships held Saturday in Houston.
Muange and Mandefro each pocketed $1,500 by winning the 13.1-mile race, which drew 5,750 entrants, making it the largest 3M field in the event's 17-year history. Tolla and Demidenko each earned $1,000 for placing second.
"There was a lot of humidity," said Mandefro, who trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet. "I had to work hard today to win."
Three miles into the race — at a pace of five minutes per mile — the lead pack had been whittled to less than a half dozen runners, including Muange and his countryman Sammy Kiplagat along with the Ethiopian trio of Tolla, Derese Deniboba and Ezkyas Sisay. Muange and Tolla kept to the front of the pack, and by the seven-mile mark — reached in 34:34 — they had opened a large gap on the pack as the runners headed down Burnet Road.
Running together, the pair knocked out miles at a 4:54 pace. Muange threw in a few surges as the pair passed the 10-mile mark, but Tolla easily covered them, never losing ground. The closing five-kilometer stretch then became a test of wills to see who would break first.
Muange's finishing kick proved the deciding factor, as he surged ahead on the final stretch on Trinity Street. He broke the tape three seconds ahead of Tolla but well off the event record of 1:01:05, set by Ireland's Martin Fagan in 2009.
"The course was good; I liked it," said Muange, who like Tolla trains in New Mexico. "I knew I needed to push the pace. I know Girma, and he's a speedy guy."
As with many runners on Sunday, the humid conditions sapped Tolla. "I tried to push it, but the humidity bothered me," he said. "It got to me at the end."
Deniboba finished third in 1:05:51, equaling his finish at 3M in 2008.
In the women's race, Mandefro had to hold off Demidenko and Truphena Jemeli Tarus of Kenya. Tarus kept Mandefro in sight until the nine-mile mark before falling off the pace, making in a two-woman race.
Mandefro and Demidenko, who trains in New York, raced against each other two weeks ago in Florida at the Naples Daily News Half Marathon, with Mandefro finishing fourth, one spot ahead of Demidenko. During the final mile Sunday, Demidenko tried mightily to change that order and overtake Mandefro, but she fell just short.
Mandefro's winning time was nearly six minutes off Jacqueline Nyetipei's event record of 1:09:35, set by the Kenyan runner in 2008. Jemeli Tarus took third in 1:17:05.
Notes: Former Austin-area resident Paul Zimmerman, who lives in Phoenix, won the men's masters title in 1:10:12. Austin's Chris Kimbrough claimed the women's title in 1:18:04. She was fourth overall among women . u2026 Brad Ray of Loveland, Colo., successfully defended his title in the wheelchair division, posting a time of 56:40. Matt Davis of Bowling Green, Ky., was second in 1:09:14. "The slick roads made it kind of tough, and I made a little wrong turn, but I was able to overtake the others and just look ahead," Ray said.