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Desiree Ficker takes Austin Marathon women's title

Julie Thompson

Each of the roughly 18,000 runners who participated in the Livestrong Austin Marathon and Half Marathon wore a racing bib displaying an identification number .

But one runner, the overall women's champion in the marathon, wore an extra bib attached to the back of her shirt that read "Ma Ficker."

Desiree Ficker took the opportunity Sunday to honor her late mother, Annette, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007 and died July 31, 2009. Her mom, she said, was her biggest fan and could always be found on the sidelines at her various athletic events.

"Athletics can be so self-focused, it can be so intrinsic. I think it shouldn't be all about you," said Ficker, a 34-year-old pro triathlete from Austin who finished in 2 hours, 50 minutes and 35 seconds. "As a professional athlete, you have an opportunity to inspire a lot of people, and people need inspiration. I know I was thinking about my mom today.

"There was a period (of the race) where I could have taken it easy, but you have to look for other inspiration outside of yourself."

Ficker's goal Sunday was a time of 2:46:00, which would have met the women's qualifying standard for the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon trials. She said that much of her recent training had been triathlon-oriented, and she wasn't in her best running shape.

"It's a tough course, and it was a tough day. Certainly it is hard to get training in when it is this warm," said Ficker's pacer, Paul Terranova. "It's a home-course race. Having that kind of support network helped her through some of the tough miles."

Ficker was followed by Jessica Mike of Minneapolis, who finished in 3:01:53. Meredith Thompson of Killeen was third in 3:03:23.

After covering the first five miles at a pace of 6:19 per mile, Ficker started to slow at the race's halfway point. Still, she said she saw no other challengers for most of the race, and was told at mile 15 that her closest pursuer was two miles back.

"Today had a little of everything; humidity, temps were warm, and a strong headwind," Ficker said.

As Ficker chases a second consecutive qualifying berth in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials — she has a marathon-best of 2:39:30 — she has began considering her life post-professional athletics. She said she hopes to pursue charitable work in memory of her mother, and has founded Team Ma Ficker with her brothers to encourage triathletes to raise money for colon cancer research.

The team will be a prominent part of the Ironman 70.3 EagleMan triathlon in June in Cambridge, Mass,. which was a favorite event of Annette Ficker's.

"She was so healthy and young at heart," Desiree said of her mom. "It's really hard when you see something like that happen. I want to do something to give back."

Notes: In the women's masters division, Kerry Camberg of Tempe, Ariz., placed first in 3:08:51. Georgetown's Marlene Hicks took second in 3:22:17.

Fort Worth's Elizabeth Eder topped the women's half marathon with a time of 1:21:56. Renee High of Virginia Beach, Va., took second, 20 seconds behind Eder, while Joan Benoit Samuelson, the women's Olympic marathon champion in 1984, placed third in 1:24:52.