After about the first quarter-mile, Daniel Craig took all the drama out of the River Run’s 2-mile race Saturday.
Craig, 31, of Gypsum, took the lead at that point and kept it the rest of the way, using his distance-running background to finish in 9 minutes, 49 seconds – 11 seconds ahead of runner-up Thomas O’Connell.
“This is a lot shorter than I usually race,” Craig said, “so I knew I’d have to try to get out hard, definitely I have to go a lot quicker than what I do in a longer race.
“The marathon is more the distance I like to do.”
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Once he took the lead, he lengthened it to about 15-20 yards and maintained his pace for a 4:55 average mile.
On the women’s side, it was a repeat of 2011 as Amber McGown swept the 10K and 2-mile titles for the second straight year.
McGown, 29, finished the 2-mile eighth overall in 11:09. Wichita’s Kim Lemon finished second among the women at 12:30 (29th overall).
Craig said he ran the River Run 2-mile for the first time after running longer distances following his high school days at Southeast-Saline High. He has competed in the River Run 10K several times, he said.
“Typically, I’ll run the (River Run) 10K, but this year I’ve been trying to focus on working on a little more leg speed and doing some shorter races,” he said.
Not a bad debut for the River Run 2-mile, which was run in warm, sunny conditions.
“It went really well,” he said. “The weather is great.”
When he’s not competing, Craig works at Central Kansas Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Salina.
“I work more in the health-promotion end – promoting physical activity, nutrition, tobacco cessation, kind of overall wellness,” he said.
Craig said the north-central Kansas hills provide good training.
“We’re kind of lucky,” he said. “We have some rolling hills, so that kind of adds some challenge to it.”
McGown said she was unsure whether she would be strong enough to tackle two more miles after being top woman in the 10K.
“Any 10K you race, you’re so tired afterward, and an hour and a half feels so short to recover,” she said. “So I just sat down, put my legs up, and hoped for the best when I started the 2-mile.”
She said she was surprised to be eighth overall.
“That’s good,” she said. “It was fun. I did the same thing last year, and I felt better this year. I felt stronger, felt more relaxed.”
McGown, who works as an economist who does market analysis for Invista, said the 2-mile wasn’t as easy as she made it look.
“It feels shorter, but you’re so tired,” she said, “and it’s a little bit faster pace. After a lot of years of racing you start to get a feeling of just how fast you can start.
“You feel so great at the start, but it takes many years of racing to figure out when that fatigue’s going to hit you and what you can handle.”
McGown, a native of Canada who came to Wichita about two years ago, laughed when asked about a “hat trick” in 2013.
“If I could pull it off again next year, it would be the hat trick,” she said. “But we’ll see.”