Right from the start of Saturday’s Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon, another piece of Tacoma running history seemed inevitable for Kate Landau.
Two weeks shy of her 40th birthday, Landau quickly moved to the front while Eric Geber, 26, found himself working to keep her within striking distance. But running alone ahead of the pack, the real challenge started when Landau reached the Narrows Bridge. Wind knocked runners out of rhythm, goal times started to slip away, and the 13.1-mile race became a mental challenge.
“It’s mentally hard when you are out there alone for the entire race,” said Landau of the Tacoma City Running Club. “That’s what I was thinking for the entire race.
“A couple times I thought I should just slow down and run with that guy who is behind me just to have somebody to run with.”
She didn’t, and when she reached Tacoma’s Tollefson Plaza after 13.1 miles, she was the first female overall winner in the nine-year history of the race. Her time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 12 seconds was 97 seconds faster than Geber, the men’s champ.
Geber finished third last year when Landau was second overall with a female course record of 1:18:21, so he wasn’t surprised, just impressed by her and thrilled to post his first career half marathon win.
It’s mentally hard when you are out there alone for the entire race. That’s what I was thinking for the entire race. A couple times I thought I should just slow down and run with that guy who is behind me just to have somebody to run with. Kate Landau, 2016 Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon champ
“My pride isn’t hurt at all,” said Geber, a first lieutenant stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “I think it is a really great thing. She is really talented.”
Geber said he kept Landau in view for most of the race before she pulled away at the end.
“Smarter running, more strategic,” Geber said. “I could see her, but she kept moving away. … She was staying at a more solid pace than I was.”
Landau, a physician’s assistant with MultiCare, is tearing up the Tacoma City Marathon Association circuit this year. The former Georgetown University runner was the overall winner at the St. Paddy’s Day Half Marathon in March, setting a new female race record (1:19:44).
Of the four half marathons in the Crown of the Sound series, Tacoma’s Kate Landau is the female course record holder and current women’s champ in three. She’s the reigning overall champ in two of the races.
The Tacoma City Marathon in May was her first marathon. She ran with the eventual winner, Bill Condon of Seattle, for most the race. She finished less than a minute behind Condon and set a new female race record (2:43:51).
“It is cool,” Landau said of winning. “That is a goal. Once you are out there you want to win.”
Saturday’s race included more than 700 runners, but for Landau and Geber it was more of a training run. Both have their sights set on Oct. 9.
That’s when Geber will race in the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., and Landau will race in the Portland Marathon.
Geber was the top runner at a qualifying race at JBLM in April. Landau is hoping her second marathon goes as well as her first.
For Landau, running 13.1 miles wasn’t quite enough to fulfill her training requirement for the day. So shortly after crossing the finish line, she turned around and started running back to the start at Tacoma Narrows Airport.
“I’ll take a more direct route back,” she said, “probably 10 miles.”
Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon
Top three women
Top three men
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Women who’ve won overall titles in the Tacoma City Marathon Association half marathon circuit.
Tacoma City Half
St. Paddy’s Day Half
Tacoma Narrows Half