Patrick Smyth of Santa Fe, N.M., and Liz Stephen, from Park City, Utah, defended their Paul Mitchell XTERRA Trail Run National Championship half-marathon titles on Sept. 18, racing under sunny skies at Utah’s Snowbasin Resort.
Smyth clocked in at 1:14:48 (5:42 pace), nearly five minutes ahead of runner-up Anthony Costales from Salt Lake City. The women’s race was also decided decisively: Stephen finished in 1:31:08, more than eight minutes ahead of Amber Schultz.
“Winning three is great. I think Max King has five so I’m chasing that legacy and have a couple more to go,” Smyth said. “I love it out here, and my legs were feeling pretty fresh this morning so I was able to get a good rhythm going on the climb and really fly on the downhills.”
Smyth established an early 15-second lead on Costales and Noah Hoffman, a 2014 U.S. Olympic Ski Team member. At the one-mile mark, the course steepened and he opened a more sizable gap.
“I like running alone, just me and my thoughts, no footsteps, nobody breathing hard behind me, that’s fine by me,” Smyth said. “It’s one of my favorite courses in the world. The three miles from the top of Sardine to the bottom…I love that stretch.”
Smyth will next compete at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, where he has a goal of finishing in the top 10. He finished 8th at the Olympic Trials Marathon earlier this year in February.
For the women’s winner, getting back on the trails by foot was a bit of a shock to the system. “It’s different muscles; I’m going to be sore,” said Stephen, a two-time Olympic cross-country skier who returned from a three-week ski training camp in New Zealand on Thursday.
It’s the sixth time Stephen has run this course. “I always look forward to getting up to Sardine Peak. It’s so beautiful, and you can take a quick glance down and see how far away the lodge is,” she said. “I just think trail running is great because you’re not in the road with cars, and you get to see these beautiful places. It’s so pure.”
Stephen is chasing her third Winter Olympics (South Korea in 2018) with the goal of medaling in the 4 x 5K relay. “It’s where all my focus is right now,” she said.
In age-group action, the home-state Utah runners led the way with 10 champions.
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