NOTE: Your editor wrote this story following the 2007 Aramco Houston Half-Marathon when Ryan Hall broke the still-standing USA half-marathon record --Ed.
HOUSTON (14-Jan-2007) -- Ryan Hall, the 24 year-old former Stanford star from Big Bear Lake, Calif., toppled one of the most time-honored records in all of U.S. road running today. Emerging from the foggy dawn here, he scooted away early from a strong field at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon and blew away Mark Curp's 21 year-old U.S. half-marathon record by an astonishing 72 seconds. With his 59:43 clocking, Hall also surpassed German Silva's North American record of 1:00:28 set back in 1994, and became the first non-African to break the one hour barrier in a half-marathon on a record-quality course.
"My plan was to just see how I felt," said Hall after running through the streets of Houston accompanied only by the race's lead vehicles. "I was just going with the race pace I could maintain."
Hall opened the race with a 4:38 mile, and was closely followed by Fasil Bizuneh, Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, and 2004 Olympian Dan Browne. By the second mile (9:08/4:30), Hall had a seven second lead and was already pulling away, hitting the 5-K mark in 14:05, 17 seconds up on Bizuneh and Keflezighi. He was surprised by how easy the miles felt.
"I've been training at altitude," said Hall who trains in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., with Team Running USA under coach Terrence Mahon. "Four-fifty (per mile) pace is good (at altitude)."
But the lean and blonde Hall was running much faster than that, averaging about 4:30 per mile (2:48 per kilometer).
"I was getting the splits on my watch and I saw 4:30's," Hall recounted. "I said, 'I'm having a pretty good day here.'"
It was much better than good. Hall passed 5 miles (about 8 km) in 22:48, 10 km in 28:21, 15 km in 42:21 and ten miles in 45:33. His 15-K split was one second faster than Todd Williams's U.S. record, and his ten mile split was 40 seconds faster than Greg Meyer's U.S. 10-mile record. Hall also passed the 20-K mark much faster than his own American record (approx. 57:06 vs. 57:54), but there was no official timing at that mark and the press truck was too far away to get a reasonably accurate split.
Sailing down the finish straight on Rusk, Hall waved to the crowd, pumped his arms and, as is his tradition, looked to the skies to thank God. He busted the tape with authority, sealing his place in the record books.
"I really wanted to hit this one right," said Hall who with coach Mahon had been pointing for this race. "We're still kind of training through this, getting ready for a spring marathon."
Bizuneh ended up running with Keflezighi for the entire race, and had a little bit extra in the final push to the line, sprinting to second place in a personal best 1:02:20. Keflezigh finished two seconds behind and was impressed with Hall's performance.
"A lot of us have been targeting that record," said Keflezighi who said that Curp's record was actually a little soft. But now Hall had put it out of reach for at least a little while. "He put it down pretty good," said Keflezighi.
Hall received a fitting payday for his accomplishment today. He won a total of $21,000: $12,000 for winning the U.S. title, $5,000 for breaking the U.S. record and $4,000 for breaking the course record (1:02:07).
Dryer Prevails In Women's Championship Race
Olympian Elva Dryer of Gunnison, Colo., had a very successful half-marathon debut today, winning the women's U.S. Championships in 1:11:42, just five seconds up on her Athens Olympics roommate, Katie O'Neill of Milton, Mass.
"It was a solid race for me," said Dryer who earned $12,000 for her victory. "Today for me this was an important race for me to see what I have to do to get where I want to be," she added.
O'Neill, who had only recently overcome a stress fracture of her pelvis, tried to keep Dryer close througout the race, but the gap was just too hard to close.
"I tried to shrink it once, but I died," said O'Neill who ran for Yale University.
Finishing a surprising third was 24 year-old Michelle Lilienthal of Philadelphia. The former University of Wisconsin Badger, who ran a 2:35:51 marathon at Twin Cities last October, shattered her personal best with a 1:12:46 clocking.
"I was pretty much on my own from mile-3," said Lilienthal.
Women's Record Falls In The Marathon
In the accompanying Chevron Houston Marathon, Dire Tune of Ethiopia broke Ingrid Kristiansen's 23 year-old course record, stopping the clock at 2:26:52. Kristiansen's mark of 2:27:34 had stood since 1984. Beata Rakonczai of Hungary finished second in 2:30:14 in her first marathon since the Athens Olympics in 2004. Forty-five year-old Firaya Suntanova-Zhdanova of Tartarstan (Russian federation), finsished third in 2:39:06. Tune won $35,000 for her victory, including $10,000 for breaking the course record.
On the men's side, Feyisa Tusse of Ethiopia got the win in 2:11:39, well ahead of Mikhail Khobotov of Russia (2:13:56) and Benson Cheruiyot of Kenya (2:14:03). Tusse earned $28,000 including $3,000 for breaking 2:12:00.