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Keira D’Amato and Morgan Pearson Take the Wins in the Michigan Pro Half

Runner’s World logo Runner’s World 10/28/2020 Andrew Dawson
a group of people in a field: Keira D’Amato and Morgan Pearson took the wins at the Michigan Pro Half Marathon. © Michigan Pro Half Marathon Keira D’Amato and Morgan Pearson took the wins at the Michigan Pro Half Marathon.

It was a big PR day for many of the athletes racing in the Michigan Pro Half Marathon.

Runners came from around the country to compete in the half hosted by the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project (ODP) at their training spot in Shelby Township, Michigan—the same spot where the Michigan Pro Ekiden took place.

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The race allowed many of the athletes to fulfill contract obligations and run for time bonuses in a year without many races on the calendar. Plus, it was an opportunity to bring some of the country’s best athletes together to face off, even without prize money on the table.

“It was important for our athletes to get an opportunity to race when they don’t have opportunities,” Hansons coach Kevin Hanson said after the race. “We can’t go to a Chicago or New York because of COVID, but even if we went there, we would’ve had the same 30 athletes would did here. It was the same field. We created something that got people excited and we’re happy with it.”

In the women’s race, Emma Bates and Keira D’Amato quickly pushed the pace, running past the 5:20 pacer, Natosha Rogers, and taking a big lead early. At halfway, they remained right on each other’s shoulders, separated from the rest of the field.

Then the 36-year-old D’Amato made her move and pushed the pace. A 5K later, she had opened up a 12-second lead on Bates and continued to dominate all the way to the line for a massive PR of 1:08:57.

This run is just the latest in D’Amato’s huge year. In June, she clocked a 15:04 5K, taking almost a minute off of her PR from more than a decade ago. And in late November, she’s aiming for the womene’s 10-mile world record in an all-women’s microrace organized by the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race director.

“It has been a rough year,” D’Amato said after the race. “Everyone can relate to how tough 2020 has been, but I was fortunate that the team’s put on this race and I got the opportunity to come out here and show my fitness that I’ve been building up though the pandemic.”

Bates took second with a PR of her own in 1:09:44 and Boston Athletic Association’s Elaina Tabb finished third in 1:11:02.

The women’s top 10 played out as follows:

RUNNER

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PACE/MILETIMEKeira D’Amato5:161:08:57Emma Bates5:191:09:44Elaina Tabb5:251:11:02Paige Stoner5:291:11:53Makena Morley5:311:12:17Melissa Dock5:331:12:50Alia Gray5:341:13:01Carrie Verdon5:351:13:11Tristan Van Ord5:381:13:55Julie Kohnen5:161:13:56

The men’s race played out very differently. Through the halfway mark, a group of 12 was only four seconds apart at the front. The pack slowly separated on the second half, but the race truly began with 5K to go.

Jon Raneri, who broke the treadmill half marathon world record in June, made a surge, bringing four others with him. Though he wasn’t able to hang on, the group of Tyler Day, who joined NAZ Elite this month; Frank Lara, who won the U.S. 15K championships back in March; Scott Fauble, who was the top American at the 2019 Boston Marathon; and Morgan Pearson, a pro triathlete and former member of the Tinman Eite group, surged ahead.

With a mile to go, Lara appeared to have the move to run away with the race, opening up a small lead over the trio behind him. But they would all match the speed coming into the finish.

In a sprint to the line, Pearson surprised everyone and took the win in 1:02:15. Day finished second (1:02:16), Lara took third(1:02:17), and Fauble crossed in fourth (1:02:18).

Pearson, who signed up for the race a week ago, came into the race after crashing out of triathlon in September and injuring his shoulder. He said his initial plan was to go out with the second pack, but he said he’s glad he stuck with the front group.

“I’ve never run longer than a 10K in a running race,” Pearson said after the race. “With a mile to go, I didn’t want to leave it too late, so I decided to go. I caught up to Frank and I thought Frank was gonna win it. I was just lucky to have a kick at the end.”

The men’s top 10 played out as follows:

RUNNERPACE/MILETIMEMorgan Pearson4:451:02:15Tyler Day4:451:02:16Frank Lara4:451:02:17Scott Fauble4:451:02:18John Raneri4:461:02:23Jake Riley4:461:02:29Colin Bennie4:461:02:30Sydney Gidabuday4:461:02:32Rory Linkletter4:471:02:37Josh Izewski4:501:03:22

With this race in the books, some athletes will start their offseason. Others are gearing up for The Marathon Project, an elite-only race of 100 runners that will take place in Chandler, Arizona, on December 20.

These smaller races have brought a lot of excitement in the running world with most races still suspended. One thing that appears to be clear—the athletes and fans want to see events like this and the ekiden relay in the future, even after the pandemic. Hanson said after the race he is hoping to host again.

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