DULUTH--His strategy evolved during his practice sessions, when Mo Trafeh acclimated his body to the rhythm: go out fast, then relax and regroup. Saturday in Duluth, it paved the way to his second USA Half Marathon championship in course-record time.
Trafeh, of Duarte, Calif., led for most of the 13.1-mile race with Meb Keflezighi on his heels. With about two miles to go, Trafeh dialed it back a bit, slowing to conserve energy for his final kick. Keflezighi took the lead briefly, but Trafeh burst back to the front to win in 1 hour, 1 minute, 16 seconds. Keflezighi finished second in 1:01:22.
Adriana Nelson won her first women’s USA Half Marathon title, leading from start to finish as she clocked a time of 1:11:18. The race kicked off a morning of distance events in Duluth, culminating with Grandma’s Marathon.
John Klecker won the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in his first race at the distance, finishing in 1:09:20, and Mary Davies won the women’s division in 1:11:14, nearly seven minutes faster than second-place Margaret Landberg.
Trafeh, 28, earned his eighth U.S. road running title on a foggy, damp 46-degree morning. He said his biggest worry was not injuring himself as he took the lead for good with about a third of a mile to go.
“I took the lead from the gun and pushed really hard, but they didn’t let me get any gap,’’ he said. “Meb was tough to break. I gave him some confidence when I moved behind him, but that was part of my strategy, to get behind him so I can relax and get ready for my kick.
“With (1 ¼ miles) to go, I just moved behind him and let him lead. I relaxed and got my breathing back and recovered. Meb thought I was tired, but I wasn’t tired. I knew I could outkick him in the end.’’
Trafeh said he prepared for the race by doing similar intervals in his road training, which got his body used to it. Keflezighi ,38, said he was pleased with a time that was his second-fastest at the distance, particularly after his hamstrings tightened between the eighth and ninth miles.
“I wanted to be cautious and protect second place, and I couldn’t make the move I’d like to have done,’’ said Keflezighi, a two-time Olympian who finished fourth in the marathon at the London Games. “I wish I could have pulled it off, but I’m very happy with my performance.’’