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Monday, 14 November 2016 19:12

Men Win Equalizer Bonus at Half Marathon on Monterey Bay

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Aaron Braun overtakes Becky Wade along Cannery Row on his quest to be the first finisher across the line for the $5,000 equalizer bonus in the 14th annual Half Marathon on Monterey Bay. Aaron Braun overtakes Becky Wade along Cannery Row on his quest to be the first finisher across the line for the $5,000 equalizer bonus in the 14th annual Half Marathon on Monterey Bay. (©Kaori Photo 2016)

Crashing ocean waves, bright sunshine and an exciting elite competition were among the many highlights in the 14th annual Half Marathon on Monterey Bay.

A ‘battle of the sexes’ challenge provided a thrilling end to the 13.1 mile race held along the water’s edge in the coastal towns of Monterey and Pacific Grove, California. The 16 female elite and seeded runners started the race nine minutes ahead of the 26 top male runners. The differential was based on the average gap between the first male and female finishers in this race the last five years.

After a relaxed first few miles at 5:45-per-mile pace that saw eight women running together through the low clouds and fog along Monterey Bay, as the sun broke through, five women broke away and started pushing the pace, perhaps sensing they needed to average more like 5:30 miles to hold off the men.

The women’s pack was whittled down to four at eight miles when they first saw a pack of about five men less than a mile behind them on the out-and-back section of the course.  By nine miles, the top three women were working together to keep the intensity high and to take turns fighting a pesty head wind. Sara Pagano of Brighton, MA, Becky Wade of Louisville, CO and Lauren Jimison of El Dorado Hills, CA stayed together became the hunted.

The men’s pack also separated into a group of three. Aaron Braun of Flagstaff, AZ, Daniel Tapia, a native of nearby Castroville and now training in Mammoth Lakes, CA, and Martin Hehir, Braun’s training partner in Flagstaff, slowly gained on the women.  At mile 12.3, Braun pushed past Wade, who at that point was a few strides in front of Pagano.

Braun went on to hold off Tapia by four seconds to take the win in 1:03:32 and win the $5,000 ‘equalizer’ bonus intended for the first person to cross the finish line as well as $4,000 as the first male finisher.

Pagano surged past Wade in the last few hundred yards to take home the $4,000 women’s first prize in 1:13:04. The final gap between the men’s and women’s champions was nine minutes and 32 seconds.

               “I was optimistic but it’s such a long race,” Braun said after the race. “Just like life, you just keep trying and eventually the finish line comes and it’s worth it.”

               Pagano called the gender competition “awesome,” and praised the beauty of the course.

               “How can you beat this?” Pagano said after the race. “This whole course was incredible and the people cheering along the way was a really fun part too.”

               Both Pagano and Braun were first-timers at the Half Marathon on Monterey Bay.

               Daniel Tapia, the 2010 winner of the Big Sur International Marathon, finished four seconds behind Braun in 1:03:36 with Martin Hehir 9 seconds later at 1:03:45.

               Wade held on for second in 1:13:08 among the women with Jimison coming in the third female spot at 1:13:13.

               The elite competition purse totaled $32,000 in prize money and bonuses, making this year’s Half Marathon on Monterey Bay the country’s fourth richest half marathon race.

A sold out field of 8,000 runners enjoyed the beauty of the course.  Runners from 12 to 88 years old and from 48 states and two dozen countries enjoyed the scenic highlights of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary as well as visitor attractions such as running through historic Monterey, along Cannery Row, past the Monterey Bay Aquarium and through the quaint town of Pacific Grove.

“Today couldn’t have gone any better,” said race director Doug Thurston.  “It was an exciting elite finish and a beautiful day with many runners getting PR’s (personal records).”

The November Half Marathon on Monterey Bay is one of four events in the Big Sur Marathon ‘family of events.’  The flagship race is the Big Sur International Marathon in April.  Others include Run in the Name of Love 5K and 2K in June and the Salinas Valley Half Marathon in August.  A ‘Waves to Wine’ challenge was added this year with medals being given to runners completing three of the four Big Sur organization races.

The 15th Half Marathon on Monterey Bay will be held November 12, 2017.

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