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D'Amato, Pearson Impress at Michigan Pro Half-Marathon

10/29/2020
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(28-Oct) -- Keira D'Amato of Midlothian, Va., and Morgan Pearson of Boulder, Colo., won today's inaugural Michigan Pro Half-Marathon on a crisp and windy fall day in Stony Creek MetroPark in Shelby Township, Michigan.  With the park's trees ablaze with fall colors, D'Amato clocked a personal best 1:08:57 in the all-women's section of the race, the second-fastest time by an American woman this year.  Pearson, a triathlete who had never run a half-marathon before, clocked 1:02:15.  D'Amato's win was not unexpected, while Pearson's was a big upset.

MOSTLY SOLO RUN FOR D'AMATO

D'Amato, a full-time realtor who runs unattached, ran aggressively from the start.  Behind the pacemaking of Natosha Rogers of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, the 36 year-old tucked-in with Emma Bates (Asics/Idaho Distance Project) and Elaina Tabb (Boston Athletic Association), and the quartet quickly separated themselves from the field.  They hit the 5-K in 16:17, on pace for sub-69:00 finish time.  At that point Bates, the 2018 USA marathon champion, was dictating the pace.

"Natosha Rogers was the pacer for the 5:20 group, but Emma took it out faster than that," D'Amato said in her post-race interview.  "She's a beast."

Rogers would drop out before the 10-K split on the two-lap course, leaving D'Amato and Bates on the front (32:50) with Tabb just three seconds back.  Wearing sunglasses and knee-length black socks, D'Amato felt comfortable running with Bates.  Everything was clicking.

"I felt like I could just lock in and get in the groove," D'Amato explained.  She continued: "It felt pretty good so I just ran fast, I guess."

Over the next five kilometers, Bates fell behind D'Amato who built a 12-second lead by 15-K (49:02).  Bates was alone in second, as was Tabb in third.  D'Amato, who will attempt to break the USA record for 10 miles on November 23, in Washington, D.C., showed no signs of fatigue: her posture was straight, her chin was up and her back-kick was high.  She was really enjoying herself.

"This is such a beautiful course," D'Amato said.  She added: "It's not like you're just running straight flat, get bored, and lose track of what you're doing."

D'Amato cruised to the finish with only the lead cyclist for company.  Her time of 1:08:57 made her the tenth-fastest USA woman of all time (on a record-eligible course) just behind Olympic gold medalist Joan Samuelson.  Interestingly, she passed through 10 miles today in about 52:38 showing that she has a good chance at the American record of 52:12 next month.

"I wasn't too far off today," she said of her 10-mile split.  "I hope that I'm the one to break it that day, but the hope is that someone breaks it that day."

Bates ran a personal best 1:09:44 in second place, and Tabb got third in 1:11:02.  Paige Stoner (Reebok Boston Track Club) finished fourth in her debut at the distance in 1:11:53, and Makena Morley (unattached) got fifth in a personal best 1:12:17.  In all, 15 women broke 1:15:00.


TRIATHLETE UPSETS THE FIELD

Pearson (361) was a late entrant into today's race.  He was supposed to race in a triathlon on November 6, but had crashed on his bike in a previous race in September and had to scratch.  Today's half-marathon looked like a perfect opportunity to test himself with no expectations; he had never done a running race longer than 10 kilometers.

"I reached out and tried to get in a week ago," Pearson said in his post-race interview.  "I just wanted to compete."  He added: "I only run like 65 miles a week on my max."

Unlike D'Amato, Pearson had the benefit of running with a large lead pack.  As a cyclist he's used to thinking about hitting the best line on the course and also staying tucked-in the pack to avoid the wind.  He was one of ten men going through 10-K in 29:36 with John Raneri (McKirdy Trained), Sydney Gidabuday (Tinman Elite) and Zach Panning (Hansons-Brooks) on the lead.  The pace felt good, but Pearson didn't exactly know how fast he was going.

"I didn't even have a watch on; I didn't know what splits we were running," Pearson said.  He added: "There was just a big pack in the lead."

As the kilometers went by on the second lap of the course, the pack dwindled.  At 20-K (59:02) Pearson was shadowing Frank Lara (Roots Running Project) with Scott Fauble (Hoka Northern Arizona Elite) on their heels, and Raneri and Tyler Day (Hoka Northern Arizona Elite) within striking distance four seconds back.  With just over a kilometer left, Pearson tried to sort out his best strategy to get to the finish first.

"Jon Raneri started making surges, then Frank Lara surged," Pearson recalled.  He continued: "I didn't want to leave it too late.  I'm going to move now."

Pearson steadily pulled away from Lara and would not be caught.  Raneri faded back, leaving Lara, Day and Fauble to battle for the two remaining places on the podium.  Lara held on to second place, but Day kicked past Fauble to finish third.  Raneri held on to round out the top-5 (official times not yet available).

"I was lucky to have the kick at the end," Pearson said, tugging on his surgical mask as he spoke to race commentator Lee Troop.  "I guess at the end of the half marathon I don't know if that's a kick."

In triathlons athletes rarely run for time, only place.  Sticking with that approach worked for Pearson today.

"That's kind of my style," Pearson said.  "I didn't care about my time today."

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