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, 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, 16.3 seconds. Keflezighi finished second in 1:01:22.0.
Adriana Nelson of Boulder, Colo., won her first women’s USA Half Marathon title, leading from start to finish as she clocked a time of 1:11:18.3. John Klecker of Hopkins won the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in his first race at the distance, finishing in 1:09:19, and Mary Davies of New Zealand won the women’s division in 1:11:07, more than seven minutes faster than second-place Margaret Landberg.
Trafeh, 28, earned his eighth U.S. title on a foggy, damp, 46-degree morning. He took the lead for good with about a third of a mile to go and earned $13,500 for the victory.
“I gave [Keflezighi] some confidence when I moved behind him,” said Trafeh, 28, who also won the title in 2011. “But that was part of my strategy, to get behind him so I can relax and get ready for my kick.
“With [1¼ 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. He easily bested the course record of 1:02:19 set by Derese Deniboba in 2011.
Barney and Janis Klecker both have won Grandma’s Marathon titles. Saturday, their son, John, added to the legacy with his victory in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.
Barney won the second Grandma’s, in 1978, and Janis’s title came in 1987. John Klecker, 19, finished eight seconds ahead of Brian Sames of Shakopee, even though he had never run farther than five miles.
“My parents didn’t push me into [running],” said Klecker, who runs track and cross-country at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. “But whenever I need a workout or to talk about training, they’re always there. And my brother and three sisters all run, too, so it’s kind of just one big training group in the house.”
The cool, overcast weather led to a quiet morning in the medical tent. Dr. Ben Nelson, medical director of Grandma’s Marathon, said the number of runners who required treatment was the lowest of his tenure with the race. The most common issue was foot blisters caused by wet shoes and socks, and some runners simply needed to get warm, dry out and rest up. A few were sent to local hospitals for observation.
• Krige Schabort won his fourth Grandma’s Marathon wheelchair title, finishing in 1:24:12. Amanda McGrory won the women’s title for the seventh time in 1:38:38.
• John Naslund, Joe Johnson and Jim Nowak all finished the marathon, keeping intact their streak of finishing the race in all 37 runnings. Naslund’s time was 3:47:01, while Johnson clocked 4:27:19 and Nowak 4:56:55.
• A race-record 6,618 finished the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.