TAMPA — Ryan Hall used Saturday's Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K only as a tune-up for his Boston Marathon debut in six weeks. But the California native was so quick that by the time he was recognized in a postrace ceremony, he was already on a plane out of town.
This was Hall's first race since finishing 10th in the marathon in last year's Beijing Olympics, the longest break of his career. And heading into the chilly morning, the U.S. record-holder in the half-marathon was eyeing the U.S. 15K record of 42:22 set by Todd Williams in 1995.
Hall's 43:26 fell short, but he broke from the pack in the first half-mile and beat the runnerup by nearly 3½ minutes. Hall paced himself with a 4:39.6 average.
"I get up for this kind of stuff," Hall, 26, said. "I think I could run a really good marathon right now. I could probably hit a 4:45 pace all day. But then you start hitting sub 4:40s, and there's that fine line. My focus is on the big picture, that being Boston."
Even though Hall will likely head to Boston as the top American, he said he will feel little pressure on April 20. He said the pressure is on four-time winner Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya.
"I feel like I'm kind of the underdog a little bit, the Rocky guy," Hall said. "I just think it's a great opportunity to go up there and upset some people."
another record: For the third time since turning 70 in the fall, St. Petersburg's Joe Burgasser set a record.
Burgasser's 1:01.46 in the 15K topped the 22-year-old U.S. record for those 70 and older by four seconds. He set the U.S. 10K record for his age group (40:11) at the Times Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and the 50K mark (4:22.04) at the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic in December.
The record "was the objective," said Burgasser, who runs for the bay area-based Forerunners Florida Track Club. "As we got to each mile marker, I was calculating how much I could slow down and still get (the record). Every mile marker I was like, 'I can't slow down at all.' I knew by Mile 7 it was going to be very, very close."
Breaking from the pack: In the second year of the 15K wheelchair race, winner Josh George knew there would be a pack all the way until the end because of the flat course.
"There isn't a hill in the whole dang course," said George of McLean, Va. "I felt like I had a decent shot of winning, and I knew … there would be a pack of racers there the whole time. That makes it a lot more fun, and it plays to my strengths."
That meant saving something extra for the final stretch, when George, one of five racers from the University of Illinois, finished in 31:57 to edge Krige Schabort by one second.
Odds and ends: Gasparilla Distance Classic executive director Susan Harmeling reported only two injuries in the event, a shoulder separation on the course and a woman transported to Tampa General Hospital. Her condition was unknown. … Retired Tampa math teacher Emery Jewell, 83, finished the 15K in 1:47.58. Jewell, who began running at 63, says he has 506 running trophies. … Among the attire spotted was a man in white overalls, another in a camouflage kilt and a group of seven locals in Hawaiian shirts that made four "beer stops" along the 15K course.