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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

32nd Austin Marathon takes off, hilltoppers embrace decades-long city tradition

Max Hoelker / Hilltop Views
A series of half marathon finishers. With the State Capitol Building in the background, the marathon has a sense of grandeur worthy of the Lone Star State. The divider to the right separates the half marathon finishers from the full.

Over 17,000 runners took off at 7 a.m. for the 32nd Austin Marathon on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. The marathon brought over 100,000 people into the city this year and consistently brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars in pure charity, with historical estimates of tens of millions added to the city economy over the weekend. 

Runners lined up at Congress Avenue and 2nd Street, grouping themselves around banners with pacing estimates in order to run with those running at similar speeds; elite runners, estimating themselves at just over two hours, lined up at the front with the other thousands of runners bunched behind them; Congress was blocked off from the Texas State Capitol to Ben White Boulevard. 

Minutes before the race began, runners, volunteers and spectators alike fell silent for a rendition of the national anthem. After the moment of national pride, the signature race gun was fired at precisely 7 a.m.

The course ran down Congress to Ben White Boulevard. and then back up South 1st Street. The runners turned left on Cesar Chavez with the leaders running a breakneck five-minute mile pace. The course ran due northwest, turning back toward downtown after the first three miles. The full and half marathons diverged downtown; the half headed into the capitol to finish on South Congress, and the full turned back north to go through the University of Texas at Austin’s campus. After twisting and turning through North and East Austin, the full runners turned back downtown on East Cesar Chavez to finish alongside the half. 

Marathon winner George Onyancha finished with a blazing time of 2:19:08 and an overall pace of five minutes and 19 seconds per mile. 

DJs and water stations were scattered throughout the course, providing entertainment and sustenance for the runners. Volunteers from all over the city, including the St. Edward’s track team and HOOVES, Helping Others Out Volunteering Every Saturday, helped this process go smoothly. Even individual students, like senior Eugene Inotu, took time out of their weekend to help out. 

Spectators lined the entire 26.2-mile stretch. Many of them brought signs with funny messages and cowbells, a signature for racing events. 

“My favorite part were some of the signs that were just so funny, and I just didn’t expect people to be cheering for you,” sophomore Hannah Simpson said. “They were just, like, complete strangers, and all the DJ booths were so unexpected, but they were so fun.”

Hilltoppers from all walks of life participated in the marathon in various forms, embracing this decades-old tradition. 

“I’ve always wanted to push myself really hard and I knew that half marathon training would do that,” Simpson said. “And I also just really love running for long distances and it makes you feel so good afterwards.”

Simpson and senior Mimi Currah, both former members of the soccer team, began their training with Braeden Shaffer, Currah’s boyfriend, in November. 

Shaffer, Currah and Simpson pose before the start. Currah and Simpson’s race bibs are visible. Racing bibs, pinned to racers’ clothes with safety pins, have a chip on the back that logs each racer’s time when it crosses special mats on the course. (Max Hoelker)

“It’s such an awesome experience and just like such a mental break from life,” Simpson said. “Just to go out there for like an hour-long run and you can just process your thoughts, your emotions and afterwards, the feeling is just so amazing. And your head is so clear afterwards. So it just provided so much mental clarity and peace.”

The trio finished the half marathon together with a time of 2:19:19 — milliseconds after Onyancha in the full.

“At the end, finishing so close to the top finisher for the full just kind of made me laugh,” Currah said. “I was like, ‘wow, he really just ran double what we just did.’ So, that was kind of funny, but it was cool to watch him finish so close.”

The three of them said that they would run another half marathon, and both Simpson and Shaffer expressed interest in a full marathon in December. They both emphasized how valuable of an experience it is.

“Do it for the experience,” Shaffer said. “People should do it. Everyone’s got to do it one time. I think everyone should, even if you walk a little bit.”

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About the Contributor
Max Hoelker
Max Hoelker, Copy Editor
Max is a sophomore English literature major with a minor in psychology. Although this is his first year with Hilltop Views, he is ecstatic to dive into writing, editing and all things in between. In his limited free time, Max loves to spend time with friends and read.

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