King, Fleshman win XTERRA Trail Run Nationals Half-Marathon in Bend, Oregon
Bend, OR - 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.
Another remarkable runner of the day was Bend's own Charles Hoover. At 85 years old, Charles was the most senior athlete of the day and finished just under his 4 hour goal overcoming several serious medical conditions. The crowd went wild as he ran strong across the finish line with a huge smile on his face.
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 Champs:
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.
In the 10K, the locally loved runner Flap Jack, 36, ran without his typical pancake costume and was able to take home the overall men's title with his time of 37:22, which was good enough to best Bend's Samual Burris, 19, by 41 seconds. Julie Leasure, 38, coming down from Portland, won the women's 10K in 42:48 after a friendly back and forth battle with Bend's Lindsay Peters, 29. According to Julie, "Lindsay really pushed me, and it was great to have such a strong competitor to run against. She was ahead for the first half of the race, and I was lucky enough to lead for the second half."
“BOO” WINS XTERRA K9 CHALLENGE, PRESENTED BY JOHN PAUL PET: A 5-year-old Australian Shepherd named “Boo” and her owner Kirk Morrow from Bend won the XTERRA K9 Challenge with a perfect run of 27.5 seconds in the time trial obstacle course, just a fraction faster than last year’s winner “Havana”, a six-year old Healer mix and his owner Troy Kapinos from Cottonwood, Utah. In winning the made-for-fun event that featured a few short sprints, tunnel crawls, plank navigating, log jumps, fire hydrant swerves, and teeter-totter crossings Boo and Morrow won a loaded prize package full of product from John Paul Pet, and proceeds from the event went to the Central Oregon Humane Society.
The XTERRA Trail Running National Championship was presented by Paul Mitchell and XTERRA.TV. National sponsors included GU Energy Gel, Gatorade, Zorrel, John Paul Pet, Hawaiian Airlines, XTERRAGear.com, and Runner’s World Magazine. The destination sponsor was Visit Bend, and local sponsors included the Old Mill District, Riverhouse Hotel, Footzone, Earth2o Water, Cafe Yumm!, Strictly Organic Coffee, and Fleet Feet Bend.
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 www.xterratrailrun.com.
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