On Geoffrey Burns’ right thigh is a tattoo that prominently displays a big blue “M” — the logo of the University of Michigan — as well as the words “Very Nice.”
Those two words reference a running club Burns belongs to back home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but they could just as easily describe the way he felt after crossing the finish line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon on Sunday morning.
Very nice, indeed.
Burns, a 25-year-old former runner at Michigan, came from behind in the final mile to win the 26.2-mile race that began in the Central Business District and snaked throughout many parts of the city before ending in City Park. His time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, 58 seconds was a personal best, and it came in thrilling fashion.
Last year’s champion, John Brigham of Mobile, Alabama, led for the majority of the marathon. And when the pace truck pulled away at Mile 24, he had a fairly comfortable lead. But Brigham said he began to struggle with cramps in his hip and hamstring at that point, which slowed him considerably.
Seeing his chance, Burns made his move and passed Brigham during the final mile.
“It was pretty much in the last mile that I got to him,” Burns said. “At 25 (miles), I got pretty close, and I tried to put the dagger in by putting it down pretty hard. He made a move at about halfway through the race.
“He went hard and gapped me by a pretty good bit. I locked my eyes on him and told myself I couldn’t let him get any further. I knew I could hang with the pace, so at 22 (miles), I still had enough to start burning.”
Brigham said, despite his pain, he tried his best to fend off Burns.
“I kept trying to pick it up a bit,” the 30-year-old said. “But the cramps kept seizing up on me. At that point, I knew I just wanted to finish the race.”
He did, placing second in 2:25:28. David Rodriguez of Corpus Christi, Texas, was third in 2:32:19.
Meggan Franks, a 32-year-old Canadian who now lives in Starkville, Mississippi, won the women’s field in 2:51:51. She also won this race in 2012.
She said early race conditions — temperatures in the mid-50s — were helpful, but she suffered during the final six miles when the temperature began to climb.
“I just tried to run smart,” she said. “I think I ran fairly fast (considering) it was so hot at the end. … And the last three miles, you tend to drag no matter where you are running.”
Kelsey Bragg of Royal Oak, Michigan, placed second among the women in 2:56:31. Amada McEnroe of Glen Allen, Virginia, was third in 2:57:40.
In the half-marathon, Poland’s Emil Dobrowolski led the field in 1:04:17.
“It was a personal best, but I wanted to run a little bit faster,” the 30-year-old said. “A 1:03:45 means you go to the European championship. So I tried to do this, but almost all race it was hard to do that time. … But the course was really flat. It helped.”
Neely Spence Gracey, a 25-year-old resident of Boulder, Colorado, led the women’s half marathon from pretty much the start, finishing in 1:14:20. That time was more than four minutes slower than her personal best, but she was happy to get a win in her first trip to New Orleans.
“It was a good test of fitness, and I think I’ll learn a lot from this,” she said. “It’s a lot different than training at an altitude (like in Boulder), so matching pace to breathing rhythm is really important. That’s what I was able to do today.”
Approximately 23,000 people registered for the marathon, half-marathon or 10K. Runners came from all 50 states and 32 countries.
1. Geoffrey Burns, Ann Arbor, Mich., 2:24:58; 2. John Brigham, Mobile, Ala., 2:25:28; 3. David Rodriguez, Corpus Christi, Texas, 2:32:19; 4. Ashley Liew, Spartanburg, S.C., 2:36:49; 5. Akira Sakaguchi, Houston, 2:41:56; 6. Kyle Taylor, Tampa, Fla., 2:43:12; 7. Elliott Mason, Miami, 2:45:41; 8. Pablo Rivero, Baton Rouge, 2:47:05; 9. Brendan Lynch, Boston, 2:48:54; 10. Jake Marcus, North Easton, Mass., 2:49:01.
1. Meggan Franks, Starkville, Miss., 2:51:51; 2. Kelsey Bragg, Royal Oak, Mich., 2:56:31; 3. Amanda McEnroe, Glen Allen, Va., 2:57:40; 4. Alison Huppert, Boise, Idaho, 3:00:39; 5. Lisa Rex, Cincinnati, 3:02:33; 6. Caitlin O’Brien, Denver, 3:03:39; 7. Sonya Lucatero, Flagstaff, Ariz., 3:03:41; 8. Leigh Anne Sharek, New York, 3:04:14; 9. Abigail Depperschmidt, Fort Collins, Colo., 2:05:28; 10th, Valeria Curtis, Pensacola, Fla., 3:07:07.
1. Emil Dobrowolski, Poland, 1:04:17; 2. Derlis Ayala, Springfield, Mass., 1:05:10; 3. Jakub Nowak, Poland, 1:06:53; 4. David Flynn, Ireland, 1:09:45; 5. Andris Goncarovs, Greensboro, NC, 1:13:18; 6. Tory Johansen, Melbourne, Fla., 1:13:29; 7. Jimmy Gobell, Canada, 1:14:00; 8. Casey Keiser, Metairie, 1:14:06; 9. Parker Steed, Brentwood, Tenn., 1:14:14; 10th, Kevin Castille, Lafayette, 1:14:22.
1. Neely Spence Gracey, Boulder, Colo., 1:14:20; 2. Dayna Pidhoresky, Canada, 1:18:42; 3. Allie Moore, Atlanta, 1:19:37; 4. Morgan Van Gorder, Mableton, Ga., 1:20:26; 5. Gabriela Trana Trigueros, Commerce City, Colo., 1:20:37; 6. Caela Timinsky, Encinitas, Calif., 1:21:14; 7. Jillian Skinner Arnold, Atlanta, 1:21:57; 8. Kara Marlatt, Baton Rouge, 1:22:27; 9. Mina De Marco, Grafton, Wis., 1:24:02; 10. Samantha Gardner, Daphne, Ala., 1:26:01.