SPRINGDALE -- Jeff Kent ran his first full marathon Saturday. It could not have gone much better.
Jeff Kent of Fayetteville holds his medal Saturday after plac-ing first during the The 42nd annual Hogeye Marathon.
Runners race during the The 42nd annual Hogeye Marathon on Saturday in Downtown Springdale.
Kay Evans of Chocowinity, N.C., crosses the finish line to place first in the female division during the race.
Kent obliterated the Hogeye Marathon record and the field of runners on Saturday, finishing the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 34 minutes, 15.55 seconds. The 33-year-old former director of operations for the Arkansas women's track program finished 12 minutes ahead of second-place runner Austin Simkins, who clocked a 2:46:37.45. Both winning times Saturday bested the mark set by last year's marathon winner, John Bitner, who clocked a 3:04:28.
42nd Hogeye Marathon
- Complete race results located at race-wizard.com
Although this year marked the 42nd year of the Hogeye, this was just the second year it has been held in Springdale. In last year's event, all times were record marks, but even using that as a measuring stick, Kent's time was remarkable. That it came in his first-ever marathon made for a storybook day.
"Back at the first of the year, I decided I wanted to run my first marathon," Kent said. "I wanted it to be a real special one as far as significance to me. Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas is where I met my wife. So this was the perfect race."
Kent, who was a collegiate runner at the University of Iowa, said he dedicated his race to his grandfathers, who have both passed away in the past two years.
He credited living and training in Fayetteville, where the terrain offers more climbs, as getting him prepared for the Hogeye. After leaving Arkansas, Kent coached track at Purdue before leaving the coaching profession last May. He and his family have returned to Northwest Arkansas. Prior to Saturday, Kent said he'd only competed in three races in the past two years.
"The course today was exceptionally marked," Kent said, a sentiment shared by most runners Saturday. "They did such a terrific job, the bikers, the law enforcement, just everybody putting this together. I thought the toughest part was on Don Tyson (Parkway) heading into the wind with some hills there. It was just a perfect course."
Kent said he trained hard for the past month to prepare for the marathon, pulling back the last two weeks to keep his legs fresh. Still, having never done a full marathon before, Kent said he really did not know what to expect.
"I wanted to be a little cautious for the first 13 or 14 miles," he said. "Once I realized 5:50 to 6 minutes was real comfortable, I felt a lot more confident as I went on to maintain that and maybe run a little faster. So it was just a matter of trusting my gut."
Kay Evans claimed the female division of the marathon in 3:37:59.67. The 56-year-old distance runner from Chocowinity, N.C., is a veteran marathoner, having competed in more than 100, she said. Saturday marked her third full marathon this year.
"This was a little better time," Evans said. "This was a little hilly course."
Evans did not become a serious runner until she was in her 30s, she said. Her partner persuaded her to take it up, she added.
"I had gained some weight over the years, and he was a runner," she said. "He tried to get me to run, and I hated it. So about the time I started to like it, he hurt his back. I ran a 5K with a friend, and from there I just wanted to keep going."
The cold weather was just what the runners needed said race director Tabby Holmes. Temperatures at the start of the race were in the low 30s with a north wind.
"It was a little windy, but the cold weather makes the runners want to run faster," Holmes said. "The turnout this year was even better than we expected. We had about 350 more runners over last year. We were a little worried moving it back a week from last year that it might be hot. But we're thrilled. It allows us to give back more to the community."
Fort Smith native Jay Glidewell, 23, cruised to the half-marathon win in the men's division in 1:24:57.73. The University of Arkansas graduate is a phlebotomist at Sparks Hospital in Fort Smith and will be entering the nursing program at UAFS next week. Glidewell ran the Boston Marathon last year.
Michelle LeMaster, 24, traveled from Olive Branch, Miss., to finish as the top female runner in the half-marathon in 1:38:12.35, but her trip wasn't all pleasure. She is also a job candidate at Tyson Foods, she said and timed her job interview with the Hogeye.
In the 5K, Branson Willis, 15, made it two straight dominating performances in a row. The Bentonville West freshman breezed to an 18:23.95 to win by a comfortable margin like he did last week at the Bentonville Half. Savana Herbert, 20, nipped 9-year-old Helen Hesselgren to claim top female honors. Herbert ran a 21:27.63, and Hesselgren clocked a 21:32.83.
The Golden Eagles of Springdale won the four-person marathon in 3:34:07.76.
Next year's race will be held April 5-6 in Springdale.
Sports on 04/15/2018