Amanda Eccleston had never run the Minnesota Mile before, but she received a valuable piece of advice before Friday's race near Enger Tower.
Just get to the top of the hill first and you'll be fine.
Eccleston did just that, winning in 4 minutes, 47 seconds, to edge Grandma's Marathon women's record holder Kellyn Taylor by four-tenths of a second. Josh Kerr, a Scotland native who runs at the University of New Mexico, sprinted past Daniel Herrera of New Orleans to win the men's race in 4:10.5. Each winner received $2,500.
"The advice paid off," said Eccleston, 28, of Ann Arbor, Mich. "I was very tired getting to the top, but I knew it was not far after that. Once you get there the finish is just down and it's just impossible to pass because you're trying not to fall."
Taylor, 32, found that out the hard way. Taylor, a Wisconsin native who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz., obliterated the Grandma's event record by just over two minutes in June. Her 2:24:28 was the seventh-fastest marathon all-time by an American woman.
Despite all that, Eccleston felt she had the advantage because the mile is her distance. Eccleston won three NCAA Division II titles in four years at Hillsdale College and earned All-America honors one year at Michigan.
Temperatures in the 60s, a cool breeze off the lake and a hilly course didn't intimidate Eccleston, either.
"The thing that is fun about the roads is that you kind of throw your times out the window and just race," she said. "It was definitely hard when it got hilly at the end, but it made it kind of fun."
The women's race began with a false start because the horn didn't blow. Eccleston said the runners, in turn, just blew that off.
"We laughed," she said. "It happens."
Taylor ran the Minnesota Mile about five years ago, when it was held on Superior Street in downtown Duluth and back before she was a local celebrity.
After running in the middle of the pack, Taylor made her move to the front near Twin Ponds but couldn't separate herself.
"It would have been really nice to come here and win the mile and the marathon," said Taylor, who was a miler in college. "But I gave it my best shot. I put myself out there. I picked it up halfway but just didn't have that miler speed, but I gave it a good go."
Taylor is taking the fall off from marathoning but is entering many "fun races." She expects to get two more marathons in before the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in February 2020 in Atlanta, but she wasn't sure if she would defend her Grandma's Marathon next June.
"The ultimate goal is to make the Olympic team," she said.
While Herrera settled for second in the men's race, it was his highest finish in the event, and he took over the points lead in the six-race nationwide Bring Back the Mile Grand Prix Tour with one race left.
Kerr, 20, just turned professional a couple months ago and was racing his first Minnesota Mile. He is a three-time NCAA champion and, in April, broke the 37-year-old NCAA record in the 1,500 for the Lobos with a time of 3:35.01.
"What an awesome experience and what an awesome view," Kerr said. "To have all these people come out and run a mile is pretty cool, and I feel very honored to win it."
A total of 637 participants registered for the Minnesota Mile, 143 more than last year. Duluth's Eric Hartmark, 40, and Jen Rhines, 44, of San Diego, Mass., took the masters titles.
This was the second year the Minnesota Mile was held at its Enger Park location, utilizing Skyline Parkway and Hank Jensen Drive, 5,280 feet of beauty as organizers have dubbed it.
When asked why this race, Kerr smiled and said, "Why not? Look at it."
Kerr looked back at Herrera a couple times down the stretch, and knowing he had it, gave the No. 1 sign as he crossed the line.
"I knew if I could just get to the top of that last hill, it was all downhill from there," he said.
1. Josh Kerr, Johnson City, Tenn., 4:10.5; 2. Daniel Herrera, New Orleans, 4:11.1; 3. Riley Masters, Boulder, Colo., 4:11.8; 4. Tripp Hurt, Boulder, 4:12.0; 5. Garrett Heath, Seattle, 4:12.7.
1. Amanda Eccleston, Ann Arbor, Mich., 4:47.0; 2. Kellyn Taylor, Flagstaff, Ariz., 4:47.4; 3. Nikki Hiltz, Aptos, Calif., 4:50.1; 4. Therese Haiss, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, 4:51.3; 5. Maddie Van Beek, Fargo, N.D., 4:53.0.