Behind the strength of a strong surge into the lead just past the 10-mile mark, Vail, a 27-year-old from Portland, Ore., ran unchallenged for most of the final 5K stretch to the finish line, breaking the tape in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 26 seconds.
“I’m coming off a 150-mile week, and I’m not fresh so it’s a really good sign,” Vail said of his performance. “Running 4:40 to 4:50 [per mile] felt easy and that’s a really good sign heading into New York where I’m hoping to run upper 4:50s.”
After an opening mile of 4:44, Vail, along with eventual second-place finisher Fernando Cabada of Big Bear, Calif., and Canadian Dylan Wykes separated themselves from the rest of the field, clicking off 4:48 and 4:47 for the next two miles to pass the 5K mark in 14:51. Not much changed over the next few miles, as the group passed the 10K mark together in 29:47. Gabriel Proctor, a 23-year-old member of the Mammoth Track Club running his first half marathon as a professional, was running solo in fourth place, 14 seconds back (30:01).
Cabada began to get restless heading into mile 7 and made a small surge to the front that temporarily dropped Wykes, while Vail sat contently on his shoulder in second place. By the 10-mile mark (48:09) it was a two-man battle between Cabada and Vail, before the 27-year-old from Portland, Oregon decided it was time to make his move.
Making a strong surge to the front, Vail quickly put Cabada in his rearview, running 4:39 for the next mile. Cabada had no response as Vail kept his foot on the accelerator, clicking off subsequent miles of 4:41 and 4:44 to claim his first Rock ‘n’ Roll victory.
“At 10 miles I was still feeling good so I thought, ‘Let’s try and get under 63 minutes today, it will be a real good test for New York,’” Vail said. “So I just wanted to test myself those last 3 miles.”
Cabada finished second in 1:03:14, his fastest half-marathon mark this year, while Wykes held on for third in 1:03:47. Proctor (fourth, 1:04:28) and Craig Hopkins of Portland, Ore. (fifth, 1:06:24), rounded out the top-5.
In the women’s race, Canadian Natasha Wodak made her final race before the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in two weeks a good one, winning in 1:14:39, nearly two minutes up on second-place finisher Megan Deakins, 23, of Mountain View, Calif. (1:16:33). Erin Burrett, also of Canada, was third in 1:17:03. Canadian Sabrina Wilkie (fourth, 17:07) and Julia Stamps Mallon of Santa Rosa, Calif. (fifth, 1:17:24) rounded out the top-5.
“I basically wanted to aim for under 1:15 and feel good and feel strong and that’s exactly what I did,” Wodak said. “I went out a little harder than I wanted and then I just sort of relaxed in the middle section because I didn’t want to push too hard. The big goal is in two weeks.”
Wodak got off to a quick start, passing the 5K mark in 17:16 before easing off the throttle a bit. She hit 10K in 34:58, 41 seconds clear of Deakins, and settled into a steady rhythm while feeding off the energy of the enthusiastic crowds along the course.
“It was a beautiful course, a beautiful day, and the crowd was amazing,” Wodak said. “Every single time I turned a corner there were little girls yelling and cheerleaders making a lot of noise. Then you pass all the other runners and they’re just going nuts for you. It was great.”
The 8th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon welcomed a record 16,000 entrants, a new high for the event. This year, runners also participated in a 5-mile Mini Marathon.
The event’s co-founder and 3-time Super Bowl champion Roger Craig was on hand to cheer on the runners. Although he was sidelined by injury and unable to run, he viewed the throngs of runners at the start line with pride.
“It’s been amazing to watch this race grow over the past 8 years, and I’m just so glad to see the event embraced by more and more people from around the Bay Area and beyond. It was perfect weather and a beautiful day to put San Jose on display.”
The race returns for a 9th year on Sunday, October 4, 2014.
Place, Name, Age, Hometown, Time, Prize Purse
Men’s Half Marathon
1. Ryan Vail, 27, Portland, OR, 1:02:46, $1,000
2. Fernando Cabada, Boulder, CO, 1:03:14, $1,000
3. Dylan Wykes, 30, Canada, 1:03:47, $1,000
4. Gabriel Proctor, 23, Mammoth Lakes, CA, 1:04:28, $1,000
5. Craig Hopkins, 25, Portland, OR, 1:06:24, $250
Women’s Half Marathon
1. NatashaWodak, 31, Canada, 1:14:39, $1,000
2. Megan Deakins, 23, Mountain View, CA, 1:16:33, $250
3. Erin Burrett, 31, Canada, 1:17:03
4. Sabrina Wilkie, 28, Canada, 1:17:07
5. Julia Stamps Mallon, 34, Santa Rosa, CA, 1:17:24