Saturday, August 18, 2012

New mile-long race draws world-class field to Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

With a world-class field competing Friday night in the inaugural GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, two runners with Pennsylvania ties stole the show.

Sonja Friend-Uhl, who lived in Pittsburgh from 1994-98, blitzed the men and women in the Masters race with a time of 4:47. Friend-Uhl, 41, beat the next fastest finisher, William Zink, by 10 seconds and the next fastest woman by 44 seconds.

"I really didn't start to feel it until the last 100 meters, and then I really had to focus," Friend-Uhl said of the race, which was run on Liberty Avenue, starting in the Strip District and ending Downtown. "But I felt really good out there. It was great."

Then in the Men's Expert race, which had eight runners who have broken the four-minute mile in their careers, Lancaster native Craig Miller overtook Jordan McNamara down the stretch to win with a time of 3:58.4. McNamara, who finished seventh in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, came in second with a time of 3:59.1, and Jeff See placed third with a time of 3:59.8.

Miller, 25, the reigning USA 1-Mile Road men's champion, said he wanted to conserve his energy until the end.

"Usually the people that lead the race in the beginning die at the end," Miller said. "I try to save my energy and then when you get to the last 100 meters, really take it in strong and that's what I did."

The reigning USA 1-Mile Road women's champion also came out victorious Friday. Heather Kampf, 25, edged out Gabrielle Anderson and Sarah Bowman with a time of 4:35.8. Anderson and Bowman, the only two women in the field to run a mile in under 4:30, finished in 4:36.3 and 4:36.6, respectively.

For winning the expert races, Miller and Kampf each won $4,000, part of a $25,000 purse. That amount is the third-largest for a mile in the country, attracting a field of world-class runners to the first-year event.

Kampf said the addition of Anderson and Bowman, neither of whom ran at the USA 1-Mile Road championship, made Friday's field one of the toughest she has run against. She also praised the course.

The entire race was run on Liberty Avenue, starting about 17th Street and ending between Sixth and Seventh streets.

"[The course] was awesome," Kampf said. "It was cool that they ran it at night so we were under the lights. Then we had great fan support at the end. I had a lot of fun, and it was great to be a part of the first one here."

From Tenth Street until the finish line, both sides of the street were lined with cheering spectators.

"We had crowds there cheering everyone on and we had a world-class field," race director Patrice Matamoros said. "I think it was phenomenal."

More than 1,000 runners finished the event.

Erik Rauterkus, 17, won the open competition; Federated Investors won the It's All Business race; and Eric Anderson, 23, won the Unstoppable competition for runners age 13-39 who previously had run a mile in under six minutes.

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