Utah Woman is Overall Winner of MarathonDanya Crawford beat the boys, but will take a personal record over an overall win any day.By Michelle Hamilton;
PublishedSeptember 24, 2013
Sometimes life brings unexpected gifts.
Such was the case for Danya Crawford on September 14, when the 33-year-old mother of two sprinted across the finish line of the Big Cottonwood Marathon, winning not just the women’s title, but the overall race.
“People had been shouting ‘first woman, first woman’ for the last few miles, but I didn’t realize I won the whole race until after I finished,” says Crawford by phone from her home in Midway, Utah.
Crawford ran the downhill course in 2:46:30, beating last year’s winner, Cameron Kasteler, by more than three minutes.
“He introduced himself to me afterwards and said, ‘I tried to catch you but couldn’t,’” says Crawford. “That’s when it started to sink in.”
Crawford led a field of 1,300 marathoners and 2,700 half marathons in the two-year old race in Murray, Utah (just south of Salt Lake City) that’s making a name for itself as a fast, scenic event.
After crossing the line and hugging her husband and daughters, Crawford considered heading out for a recovery jog, but after a few steps, realized that wasn’t going to happen. So she attended the awards ceremony.
Murray Mayor Dan Snarr presented Crawford with a plaque and check for $500, and announced the women’s second and third place finishers. Then the top three men took the podium. But Kasteler, who came in second overall and was the first male finisher in 2:49:51, stepped off the top spot and beckoned Crawford to take it again.
“It felt really good,” Crawford says of the gesture, and of winning, “but it was also a little embarrassing.”
Winning was far from Crawford’s mind when she lined up at Guardsman Pass, at 9,700 feet, at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon for the marathon start. Her goal: “Get the 2:50 monkey off my back,” she says.
Crawford ran her first marathon in 2009 in 3:26. A year later, she hit 3:15 at the Deseret News Marathon. The time flipped a competitive switch that’s had her up against the clock ever since. She came into Big Cottonwood, her 12th marathon, with a 2:50 personal record and an intent to smash it.
That such a time might yield a win never occurred to her, even as she began to pick off runners and found herself alone on the course.
“At the halfway mark, I was at 1:19, in good shape for my goal, so I just carried on,” she says. “The last six miles were lonely and hard. It seems like no one was out there.”
Crawford assumed there was a male competitor ahead of her. She thought she might take the women’s title, but she wouldn’t let her mind go there.
As the effort built, the devil jumped in. “A voice asked if this was really worth it,” she says. “I was at mile 22 and I decided I didn’t want to waste 22 miles, I didn’t want to have to do a do-over.” So she held on and streamed across the finish line in a personal record, accomplishing a feat few women have—beating the men outright.
“Really, I was so much more excited about the PR than winning,” says Crawford. “That was just icing. For me, the time is what really mattered.”
Don’t get her wrong. It was fun to win and she’d be happy to do it again—as long it came with another PR.
Her next logical target would seem to be 2:45, but Crawford has her eye on bettering 2:43, the new Olympic trials qualifying standard.
“My goal is the Olympic marathon trials,” she says, and then adds, “I can’t believe I just said that out loud.”