Kellyn Johnson was in Wichita from Flagstaff, Ariz., this weekend to visit family. She won the women’s 10-kilometer Kansas Health Foundation River Run while she was here.
A professional runner, Johnson won in 33 minutes, 52 seconds. The time was better than all but five men’s times.
“It’s obviously awesome,” Johnson said. “It was nice to finally make it here and run it. I’m a professional runner, so this is kind of a smaller race than a lot of the ones I usually do, but it was still fun nonetheless.”
Johnson, 26, is familiar with the River Run and Wichita, having run for Wichita State’s track and cross country teams from 2007-09. A lover of running as well as the area, Johnson wanted to make a trip back to Wichita for the race for a few years, but hasn’t had any luck.
“It just kind of so happened that I was coming up at the same time as the race, so it just worked out perfectly,” Johnson said.
WSU alumnae Sharon Zeller was second and Bishop Carroll graduate and Class 5A cross country champion Kaelyn Balch finished third, 3:33 behind Johnson.
The course that goes through downtown Wichita, then treks up and down the Arkansas River was a favorite of Johnson’s. The number of participants was also favorable for Johnson, who is accustomed to much larger races, such as her next race in Portland, Ore., next weekend.
“I liked how there really weren’t that many turns,” Johnson said. “I heard in previous years there were a lot of turns, but there really weren’t that many. Nice open roads, it wasn’t crowded or anything, that was nice, too.”
Johnson took a lead after the first mile, and separated herself from the crowd by the second mile. Her running experience helped her feel comfortable pacing herself through the remainder of the course.
Johnson doesn’t run a lot of road races, but compared to her track 10K time, she was pleased with her performance.
“I haven’t really run that many road 10Ks,” Johnson said. “On the track I’m a 32:30 10Ker, so I don’t really know how to measure track and road. But it certainly wasn’t bad.”
If the timing is right, Johnson wants to participate in more River Runs in the future. But even if she can’t make the right timing, Johnson hopes to be back in Wichita eventually.
“I love Wichita, it’s a great city, and I hope to actually be back here someday living,” Johnson said.