Bend, OR (September 13, 2009) - A pair of professional runners from the Beaver State – 29-year-old Max King and 27-year-old Lauren Fleshman - dominated the men’s and women’s races at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship half-marathon in Bend, Oregon this morning.
King, a Bend local, won in 1:06:46, a full six minutes ahead of runner-up Ben Bruce (1:12:58) and more than a minute faster than his own record time from last year's race. Fleshman won in 1:19:10, placed 5th overall, and finished more than two minutes ahead of the women’s runner-up and last year’s National Champ, Susannah Beck.
The victory is King’s third straight XTERRA Trail Running Championship win (he also won Nationals and Worlds last year) and it also marks the third straight time Bruce has finished 2nd.
The race started at 9am with several hundred athletes from 25 states lined up under Bend’s signature smoke stacks at the upscale Old Mill District on an incredibly beautiful, crisp and clear morning - then quickly transitioned onto the scenic trails that line the Deschutes River.
“Ben (Bruce) went out really hard from the gun so it set a good pace for me, and from there I just tried to go really hard the whole time and be smooth through the technical sections,” said King, a former steeplechase All-American at Cornell University who has established himself as one of the most versatile runners in the country (he’s also an accomplished ultra marathoner and will compete in the New York City Marathon on November 1).
Bruce was able to stay with King (pictured) through about the first 2.5 miles but by mile five King had put a minute on Bruce and by the 8-mile turnaround he was leading by nearly two-and-a-half minutes. That’s about when the trail gets truly technical, zigzagging on narrow singletrack along the river, and where King put even more distance on his long-time rival from Eugene.
"Max was just in great form today and he pulled away from me pretty early," said Bruce, a member of the prestigious Nike Oregon Track Club Elite team. “By about mile six he was gone and I looked back and didn’t see anyone behind me so I just settled in, relaxed, and had a good time out there.”
Jesse Thomas, husband to the women’s winner Lauren Fleshman, finished a little more than a minute behind Bruce, and was followed a minute-later by marathon specialist Andy Martin from Bend.
“I’ve been training pretty hard this summer and this was my first real big race back so I wanted it go really well,” said King, who was enthusiastically greeted by his wife, one-month old son Micah, and dog at the finish line. “It’s great that this race is in Bend and I can strap on my shoes and run down to the start line, and even better that I get to live here year-round and enjoy these trails.”
Enjoying the trails and this "Central Oregon mountain town that has it all" was a common theme, especially from the large collection of out-of-state runners.
“It was an awesome course, just beautiful,” said Richard Burgunder, a 30-year-old from Astoria, New York. “The venue is amazing and the river trail is epic. Plus, the people in Bend are awesome and the spectators that lined the course were so supportive. There were a couple guys on bikes that rode alongside me for a little bit and really motivated me. It was neat, a real breath of fresh air.”
Scott Dunlap, an author of a popular trail running blog and winner of the 40-44 division, echoed the sentiment. “The river was so beautiful it made it kind of hard to concentrate on the course,” he joked.
FLESHMAN – BECK – SEMICK ... 1, 2, 3 IN THE WOMEN’S RACE
Lauren Fleshman from Eugene (originally from California) is a bona-fide superstar – a 5-time NCAA Champion and 15-time All-American at Stanford University, 3-time Olympic trials qualifier, owner of a 14:58 5k, and a member of the Nike Oregon Track Club Elite team.
“It was a tough course, my best distances are the mile and 5k so this is pretty long for me, and I’ll run this distance for a long run once a week but I never try to run it hard and I never try to run over crazy rocks and roots too often so it was fun just letting it rip and hanging it all out there and running with some really good trail runners,” said Fleshman (pictured), who missed the Olympics by one spot in 2008.
“I have great respect for the athletes that compete over these distances and any race longer than about 15-miles and I think they eat me for lunch so this is about my upper limit. For me it’s a confidence booster knowing that I can compete against runners that can handle these trails really well and have a lot of experience so I’m as pleased as I can be.”
Fleshman led from just about start-to-finish even though Susannah Beck, last year’s champ, ran nearly two minutes faster than last year. “It was tough again and I really just tried to think about how pretty the course was,” smiled Beck.
Ultra running World Champion Kami Semick was also
pleased and finished 40-seconds behind Beck in third place, followed by
Katie Caba of Bend and Rachel Cieslewicz of Salt Lake City.
The XTERRA Trail Run
National Championship was the last race in a 50-stop U.S. Tour that
hosts races in 15 states ranging from 5km to 22km.
There were 25 regional series champions from Southern California to
Georgia, Virginia and beyond that took part in today’s races, and
here’s a look at the 2009 XTERRA Trail Running National
Today’s trail races were a benefit for the Mt. Bachelor
Sports Education Foundation, a non-profit whose guiding philosophy is to
encourage academic achievement and promote the positive values of
competitive Alpine, Cross Country Skiing, Snowboarding, and Cycling.
Many of the young adults the foundation services showed
up in costumes and made for a great atmosphere at the aid stations (check
out the photo gallery - image 29).
In addition to the main event there were 5km and 10km trail runs, more than 100 kids enjoying the XTERRA Kids Zone obstacle courses, running races and agility drills, the Paul Mitchell Cut-a-thon was six stylists deep creating cool hairdo’s as a benefit for the Challenged Athletes Foundation all day, and an enormous crowd of spectators, friends and family enjoyed an epic day in Bend.
BEND LOCALS DOMINATE 5KM/10KM RACES: Not to be
overshadowed by the main event, the 5 and 10 kilometer races posted some
blazing fast times as well. One of Bend's Mountain View High School cross
country coaches, Mike Condon, 23, stole the show in the 5K with his
winning time of 16:49. He was originally signed up for the 21K, but with a
lingering foot injury, he wasn't even sure if he could race at all today.
He came planning on a nice leisurely run this morning, however "when the
gun went off, it was impossible for me not to run fast" he said. Taking
second in the men's 5K was another Bend local Andrew Jensen, 20, coming in
just 34 seconds later. In the women's 5K local Piper McDonald of Bend had
the fastest time -19:33- which was also amazing enough to place 4th
overall. At just 12-years-old, this pink and blue streaked hair running
prodigy just missed her personal record by 14 seconds but was still able
to edge out 36-year-old Eugene resident Nicole Teter by 27 seconds.
A special thanks to Doug La Placa at Visit Bend, Bend Parks and Rec, Deschutes National Forest, the great volunteers from the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, and the entire Bend community for embracing the event and making it a world-class atmosphere for athletes from around the country.
UP NEXT: The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is December 6 at Kualoa Ranch on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, and many of today’s runners have already signed-up to take on the world. Read more at xterratrailrun.com.
TEAM Unlimited, a Hawaii-based television events and marketing company, owns and produces XTERRA. In 2009 there are more than 150 XTERRA off-road triathlon and trail running events held in 15 countries. There are 30,000+ competitors, ages 13-71, from all 50 states and more than 40 countries competing in XTERRA events. TEAM TV also produces more than a dozen adventure TV shows each year and you can see some of them right now at www.XTERRA.tv.