Before Sunday’s Prairie Fire half-marathon, Javier Ceja’s curiosity led him to Google to look up the Kansas state record in the event.
The record was 1 hour, 7 minutes, 39 seconds, held by Wichita native Wayne Strohman in 1997.
“I knew that was attainable if the weather was good and there was a good group of people to run with,” Ceja said.
When the conditions panned out and Ceja found the competition he was looking for, it created the opportunity to take down the record and Ceja delivered with a victory in a time of 1:06:51 — 48 seconds ahead of the state record time.
Recent Wichita State graduate Aliphine Tulmiamuk-Bolton won the women’s half-marathon in a time of 1:14:34, also a new state record. Another former Shocker, Tonya Nero (1:15:42 set in 2011) held the previous record.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Ceja said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had any kind of record. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work and a lot of pain, but overall it’s a very pleasant feeling and a true honor. It hasn’t really set in yet.”
Ceja, a 2012 graduate at Friends University, was an All-American status as a senior in track and field. Originally from Los Angeles, Ceja has stuck around in Wichita after starting work at First Gear, a local running store.
It was the second major victory for Ceja since graduating after winning River Run 10-kilometer race in the spring.
But Ceja claims he is not a full-time runner.
“I don’t think I’m good enough to make a living out of it,” he said. “I think it’s something I’m going to keep doing on the side.”
He may want to reconsider after showing impressive form to win on Sunday.
Edmond’s Silas Kisorio, the eventual runner-up, actually grabbed the lead from Ceja around the seventh mile and put about 15 seconds between him.
But Ceja fought off Kisorio’s charge and forced him to use most of his energy trying to take the lead. By the time the final five kilometers of the race came, Ceja’s core strength showed as he spurted ahead and won by 30 seconds.
“In my head, I kept telling myself to just draw even by Mile 10 and then I could worry about the last 5k,” Ceja said. “I just ran as fast as I could and kept the hammer down to finish it out.”
31-year-old Wichita native Nathan Wadsworth finished in fourth place in 1:08:06, while Jacob Buhler, the 2011 Prairie Fire Marathon winner, was fifth in 1:08:40.