Now free of the nagging injuries that stalled her collegiate running career, Austinite Jennifer Hall continues to chase success in ever-longer races.
On Sunday, she will jump to the half-marathon distance, racing in the 24th annual 3M Half Marathon, which is expected to draw the largest field in its history. More than 7,000 entrants have registered to run the predominantly downhill course, which starts in North Austin before finishing on San Jacinto Boulevard in the shadow of the Capitol.
A former 1,500-meter runner at Purdue, where she was plagued by a series of stress fractures, Hall, 29, moved to Austin in 2013 and embarked on a road racing path. In 2014, she won the Schlotzsky’s Bun Run 5K in a sterling time of 16 minutes, 44 seconds, and two years later, she topped the women’s field at the Silicon Labs Sunshine 10K in 37:48.
Last spring, Hall placed first in the 2017 Statesman Capitol 10,000 in 36:44, and she came in third at the Run for the Water 10-Miler in November. Along the way, she has been training under Ryan Ponsonby, who helped prepare Leo Manzano for his silver medal-winning effort in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 Olympics. Manzano, in fact, runs with the same training group as Hall.
“Jen is training better than ever,” Ponsonby said. “She has never run a half-marathon before, but 3M is a great event and fits perfectly into her training buildup for track (races) later this summer.
“We have a plan we’re going to stick to in terms of pace at 3M, but don’t be surprised if she’s up toward the front mixing it up with some of the guys.”
Hall also could be mixing it up Sunday with Cate Barrett, a former Baylor distance runner who came in second at the Cap 10K in 2016.
For Barrett, 28, the latest 3M race will be her third half-marathon. She won the 2015 Bearathon Half Marathon in Waco in her first try at the distance, clocking a time of 1:21:30 in an event dubbed “The Toughest Half in Texas.” She followed last summer with a victory at the Orange Leaf Half Marathon in New Braunfels, finishing in 1:25:18.
Last month, Barrett completed the California International Marathon in Sacramento in 2:54:28, boosting her confidence as she heads into 3M and the Austin Half Marathon on Feb. 18.
“In a half, it’s tricky dialing in to that specific race pace,” said Barrett, who also will run in the Boston Marathon on April 16. “Even though I’m not sure exactly what pace I’ll lock into (Sunday), I’m confident I’ll find the right pace on race day.
“I’m excited to run 3M. It’s a great race. It’s never worked out with my schedule, so this is my first shot at it.”
As for Hall, she said Austin’s larger — and longer — road races complement her training and racing plans.
“Living here in Austin, we have all these great races, so I thought the 3M Half would be a good opportunity to race and build some strength,” said Hall, who is covering about 80 miles a week in training. “I chose 3M because of the competition, and I think it will be a good confidence-builder for me. … It’s one of the more popular races and a good way to get my name out there.
“I really have no expectations, and that may help me out (while) running a distance I’ve never run before. I don’t want to get too aggressive too early on in the race, but I’d say a 1:15 could win it.”
3M HALF MARATHON
When: 7:30 a.m. Sunday
Event records: Andrés Espinosa, 1:01:16 (1999); Jacqueline Nyetipei, 1:09:35 (2008)
Course map, B3