Robert Brunelle exceeded expectations by winning Sunday’s RunWild half-marathon.
The University of Alberta medical student finished the 21.1-kilometre distance in one hour, 24 minutes and 51 seconds.
He edged out James Acheson of Edmonton by six seconds for first place.
“I’m very happy because 1:25 is the top end of what I thought I might be able to do,” Brunelle said. “I was really hoping for a sub 1:29 so this is great.”
Last year Brunelle was the third fastest half-marathoner at 1:29:51. The winner was Jason Yorke of Edmonton at 1:25:37.
“Today was a lot better. I had a great time and I felt more in control. It was an even tempo with a quicker finish, which is what anybody is hoping for at the start of the season,” said the aspiring triathlete who ran competitively 10 years ago for the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles in Oklahoma.
Brunelle, 31, and Acheson eventually pulled away from the frontrunners after several lead changes.
“We had a nice little pack for 16, 17 K. It was a real steady pace. We all took turns, so it was back and forth but the other guys did a lot of the work actually,” Brunelle said. “I tried to put the hammer down at about 16 K, but the guys came with me, especially the guy who finished right behind me. He made it really hurt.”
The half-marathon route was altered this year and Brunelle liked the changes.
“It was a lot better. It was a nice, flat course and a lot more scenic,” he said. “The volunteers were great too, just like last year.”
Brunelle couldn’t recall the last time he won a race.
“It’s been a while, so this is nice. It’s a good way to start the season for sure, but I don’t expect too many more wins.”
Kristen Hansen completed the first half-marathon of her career as the fastest female in the race.
“It’s really exciting. I just started running competitively a year ago so it’s pretty big,” said the Bellerose Composite High School graduate. “I felt like I had the hometown advantage because I know where the course is.”
Hansen, 22, placed 13th overall out of 378 finishers at 1:34:53.
“I’m kind of surprised actually. My goal was 1:35,” said the aspiring writer who is completing her last year of English at Concordia University College.
Hansen’s plan of attack was to pass every runner in front of her.
“I tried to look for the next guy in front of me and chase him down.”
Hansen quickly warmed up to the challenge despite the early morning cold and wind.
“The flat sections were good to pick up speed. There was a lot of wind in the back part of the highway [Sturgeon Road], so that was kind of tough but the course was still really good. Everything was very pretty to look at, too.”
The top female last year was Ailsa MacDonald of St. Albert at 1:31:09.
FAST TRACKS: Ben Sperling, a Paul Kane High School student, was the fastest U19 male for the second straight year in the half-marathon. Sperling placed third overall at 1:26:133 after finishing fourth last year at 1:30:31.
All nine U19 males in the race hailed from St. Albert.
The second fastest U19 female was Jessica Katernchuk of St. Albert at 2:08:53 for 204th place overall.
Karen Mazurek of St. Albert was the top female in the 50 to 59 age group at 1:48:17 for 71st place overall.
Doug de Bruijn of St. Albert finished first in the men’s 60-plus division at 1:43:08 for 36th place overall.
The winner of the 10 km race was Nicolas Wang of Calgary at 37:47. John Luth was the fastest St. Albert runner at 42:25 for fifth place out of 368 finishers.
Dan Vigliatore of Pickering, Ont. was the first runner to cross the finish line in the five km at 19:11. Brian Macsymic of St. Albert placed fifth at 22:55. Overall, 207 runners completed the race.
The top 20 finishers in the half-marathon, 10 km and five km are listed on page 70.
Visit www.resultscanada.com for the complete race results.