Photos Courtesy Atlanta Track Club
A day after Atlanta hosted the finest marathoners in the country at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials on Feb. 29, runners filled the streets of this city once again on March 1 as more than 13,000 participated in the Publix Atlanta Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K. Wrapping up a celebration billed as America’s Marathon Weekend, the race attracted runners from across the country on a running tour of Atlanta on a picture-perfect day.
Benjamin Kopecky, of St. Louis, Missouri, won the men’s marathon in a time of 2:29:49. Kopecky opened up a sizable gap and won the race by nearly five minutes on the course that traveled through Edgewood, Martin Luther King National Historic Park, Piedmont Park, Grant Park, the Atlanta University Center, and underneath the Olympic Rings and Cauldron structure from the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
In the women’s race, Abigail Cember from Philadelphia, PA, ran 3:00 on the dot to take the victory. She led from start to finish, hanging on over the hills at the end of the course to keep the win in hand.
In keeping with the Olympic theme of the weekend, 2016 Zimbabwean Olympian Pardon Ndhlovu won the half marathon in a blistering time of 1:07:17 – more than five minutes faster than last year’s winning time on the same course.
On the women’s side, Nina Zarina of Arlington, Virginia and originally from Moscow, blazed her own speedy time, running a 1:16:14 to take the victory.
The half marathon featured three other notable Olympic legends crossing the finish line as well. Four-time Olympian Meb Keflezighi was the first of those, as he spent the morning pacing the 1:40 half marathon group to a time of 1:39:37. The former Olympic marathoner noted that in previous years he would have found himself running the tangents at the Trials the day before, but this year was excited to “give high fives and keep them going to their goal.”
The next Olympian across the line was three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers, who raced her first-ever half marathon and ran a 1:53:54. Known previously for her sprinting and hurdling prowess, Devers trained with the Club’s In-Training program and pushed herself to an 8:41 average mile this morning. She had company from another 1996 Olympian – shot putter John Godina, who finished in 2:02:03. The two-time Olympic medalist ran his first half marathon in his return to the city that saw him win silver in 1996.
The first race of the morning was won by Craig Lutz, a two-time NCAA All-American in the 10K for the University of Texas who was in Atlanta to watch the Trials. The 27-year-old blazed a 15:09 to take the win over Nicholas Turco from Boulder, CO. On the women’s side, Ellyn Atkinson ran a 17:52 to take the victory in a tight race over Jacquelyn Abanses, who was six seconds behind.
Registration is already open for next year’s Publix Atlanta Marathon Weekend, which will take place on Feb. 27 and 28, 2021.