After taking a two-year break due to the pandemic in 2020, the historic Deseret News Marathon took place Friday morning as runners made the 26.2-mile trek from Big Mountain up Emigration Canyon all the way down to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City.
Running in his 12th marathon, 29-year-old Patrick Hutton of Flagstaff, Arizona, crossed the finish line with a time of 2:32:46.37 and a pace of 5:50 per mile, claiming first place in what was a wide-open race. Crossing the line first for the women (10th overall) was 39-year-old Ashley Paulson of Logan with a time of 2:48:20.39 and a pace of 6:26 per mile.
“This is the first time I have coached myself to a marathon win,” Hutton said minutes after crossing the finish line. “I’ve been coached by some pretty great coaches in the past, but this one’s special because I coached myself to it. I put in the miles and I had a big heart so I knew I could do it.”
For Hutton, the race was all about pacing himself as runners ahead of him began losing steam on a course that he said can be tricky for some due to the amount of downhill running in Emigration Canyon.
“It’s a really deceiving course because the first three miles go downhill like a thousand feet, so if you don’t pull back on that a little bit, you’re going to get stuck and get caught later on,” Hutton said. “I sat in fourth place behind the leaders all day. I sat there and said, ‘This is deceiving, I know it is, I know it is, I know it is.’”
While the leading runners were maintaining faster paces through the first half of the race, Hutton sat around a slower, six-minutes-per-mile pace. But around Mile 18, Hutton began to speed things up, increasing his pace by nearly 30 seconds per mile through the finish line.
“It’s about patience,” Hutton said. “I want everyone to hear me loud and clear right now, when you run a marathon you need to pace yourself or you’re going to hit the wall in that last half.”
Paulson, who had completed a staggering total of 90 marathons prior to Friday’s race, welcomed the downhill portions of the race.
“I loved the downhill, but it hurts those quads,” Paulson said, while acknowledging that the race wasn’t purely downhill running. “For a Utah course it was a little harder because you’re expecting all that downhill, but we had some of those gnarly uphills today, but I loved the variety. It was really fun.”
Paulson researched the race’s route heavily before running and theorized that the advertised steep drop in elevation throughout the course may have given some of her competitors inaccurate expectations.
“I think when people hear that there’s a 3,500-foot drop, (they think) it’s going to be a PR (personal record) course and you’re just going to roll through that finish line,” Paulson said. “But once you get through that canyon and start going up those hills in Salt Lake, it throws your heart rate for a loop and you’ve got to be prepared.”
For the entire race Paulson donned a shirt from the 1988 Deseret News Marathon that her father, Brad Jensen, participated in when she was just 7 years old. Paulson recalled watching her father run in the race and said that experience planted a seed that motivated her to become an endurance athlete.
“He’s the one that inspired me,” Paulson said of her father with a lively smile. “I’m thrilled to be here in his honor and run in his cotton T-shirt ... there were a lot of emotions tied into this race today, so I was just hoping those emotions would turn into an energy and give me the win today for my dad.”
Rounding out the top three for the men were Jace Nye (2:34:54.69) and Albert Wint (2:39:38.31). For the women, Carina Heilner (3:02:46.80) took second and Jennifer Smith (3:09:51.82) finished third.
Although winners of the 2021 Deseret News Marathon, Hutton and Paulson now have their eyes turned toward further goals they hope to achieve.
Hutton aspires to qualify for the 2024 Olympic trials in the marathon and will participate in the upcoming California International Marathon on Dec. 5. Paulson plans on traveling to Germany to participate in an Ironman competition on Aug. 29.
When asked what she would do the remainder of the day to recover from the race, Paulson’s response was very Ironman-esque.
“You know what? I’m going to go on a bike ride,” Paulson exclaimed. “I know, I’m one of those (people). But I’ve got that Ironman coming up and this is all part of the training for that. Yes it’s hard, my body’s tired, but I feel like getting out and moving after (a marathon) is the best thing anyone can do.”