TRAVERSE CITY — It was just the tuneup Katherine McCarthy needed.
The Grand Rapids area runner set a personal best Saturday in winning the inaugural Meijer Festival of Races women’s half marathon in 1:26:43.33.
“That’s a PR by five minutes,” the 26-year-old said. “I wasn’t expecting to go as fast as I did.”
It was McCarthy’s fifth half marathon this summer, all leading up to the Eugene Marathon in two weeks.
“I’m using this as my long run,” she said. “I feel a lot better than I thought so I’m excited.”
Oregon’s Jessie Vickers took second in 1:32:05.46 while Maryland’s Diann Tharp placed third in 1:34:37.51.
The course started at Old Mission Elementary and then veered off road on to private land that took runners through Island View Orchards.
“I thought, ‘Whoa, this takes me back to high school (cross country),’” McCarthy said. “It was a great course start to finish. You had beautiful views of the bay and of the orchards, which kept me motivated the whole time. It was an awesome course and I’m just happy I got to finish like I wanted.”
McCarthy is a veteran of past Cherry Festival races. Her resume includes the Golden Mile.
“I love the Cherry Festival,” she said. “I’ll do this one (half marathon) again for sure. I really liked it. The half is my new favorite distance.”
Also setting a personal best was men’s winner David Mart, who led the field with a 1:11:15.73.
If that name sounds familiar it’s because the Zeeland resident won the Bayshore Marathon less than two months ago.
Mart, who won by more two minutes, admitted he was “surprised” with his time.
“I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did,” the 25-year-old said. “The last month and a half I’ve been feeling real lethargic. My training was at a low. That’s why this is a surprise. Maybe my body needed a rest. I’ve been resting a lot, not doing a whole lot, but I felt pretty good today. A lot of this course was downhill so that’s probably the reason I had a PR.”