12 in '12

Kurt Austin has run races this year from Boone, N.C., to Portland, Ore., and from Omaha, Neb., to Austin, Texas.

The well-traveled Champaign runner has run a half-marathon or marathon every month — 12 races in 12 months in 2012.

Austin started running half-marathons in 2009, at the Christie Clinic Illinois Half Marathon. He’s increased the number of long races he’s done every year since, running eight half-marathons and two marathons in 2011. It didn’t seem like a stretch to do a race a month in 2012.

“I thought, 12 months, 2012, a race a month,” he said. “If I stagger them, I can do it. Every four weeks or so was a race.”

Austin picked races in places where he had friends or family, so he could combine a visit to them with a race, or that were in cities he liked. A few were races he’d done before and enjoyed.Blog Photo

He started with the Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in the Phoenix area in January, followed by the Austin (Texas) Half Marathon in February and the Get Lucky Half Marathon in St. Paul, Minn., in March.

In April was the Illinois Marathon, where he ran a personal best of 4:07:56.

May and June were the worst weather for races. Austin ran the Madison (Wis.) Half Marathon in late May and the inaugural Ann Arbor (Mich.) Half Marathon in June. Race day for both was hot and humid, with temperatures into the 90s before the race was finished. The full marathon at Madison was canceled two days before the event because of the weather forecast.

Austin ran the San Francisco Marathon in July on a course that was surprisingly flat.

“It’s not very hilly even though you think it would be. So much is run along the waterfront that it’s flat for the majority of it,” he said.

In August, Austin was in Boone, N.C., for the High Country Triple Crown Half Marathon. It was the prettiest course he ran this year, but it also made up for the relative lack of hills in San Francisco.

The race starts at Appalachian State University in Boone and goes through the Appalachian mountains to the town of Blowing Rock.

“It’s uphill most of the way for the first 10 miles. There are switchbacks,” Austin said. “Right near the end, you crest a rise and there’s a really pretty view. There’s a wooded valley. It’s all natural — there are no buildings you can see, just an Appalachian mountain valley.”

He ran the Omaha (Neb.) Half Marathon in his hometown in September and set a personal best of 1:45:58.

“It was fun to run past familiar neighborhoods and see my family there,” Austin said.

He ran the Portland Marathon in October. Austin visits friends in that city every fall, and he has combined racing with his visit, running the Portland Half Marathon in the past and running the marathon twice now. He improved his time in that marathon this year.

Austin hit the St. Louis Half Marathon in November. And this past weekend, he ran the Dallas Half Marathon.

Some fast facts about Austin’s 12 in ’12:

— Best course: Madison. The race starts and finishes at the state capital and winds through the University of Wisconsin campus and past the lakes.

Austin also liked the Ann Arbor course, which ran through the University of Michigan campus and had some challenging hills.

— Prettiest scenery: Boone.

— Best swag: St. Paul and Portland. Runners in the Get Lucky race in St. Paul got a green hoodie. (Austin is signed up for a Chicago half marathon in January that is organized by the same company. It offers a fleece jacket to participants.)

Portland loads up its runners with two shirts, a pin, a finisher medal — and then a rose and a Douglas fir sapling presented at the finish line.

(Boone could have been in contention. In 2011, the goody bag at the inaugural Boone race included a smoked ham. But Austin was disappointed not to get a ham this year.)

— Best medals: Illinois and Austin.

— Best race shirt: Austin. The black shirt says has a graphic image of a guitar and buildings from the city’s skyline and says “Run Austin” — pretty cool if your name is Austin.

— Personal records: Illinois for the marathon, Omaha for the half-marathon.

— Favorite cities: Madison, Portland and Austin.

— Best overall experience: San Francisco. “It’s such a fun course. You get to see all the famous landmarks, and you get to go across the Golden Gate Bridge twice.”

Austin hasn’t decided what he’ll do for 2013. His racing streak of half-marathons and marathons is actually 15 months long, as he ran races in October, November and December 2011.

“I sort of want to keep the streak going, but I don’t know if I will,” he said.

So far he’s signed up for races in January (the Polar Dash Half Marathon in Chicago), February (the Austin Half Marathon) and April (the Illinois Marathon) in 2013.

Austin is thinking he’d like to race in a new city, maybe in the Northeast. And he’d like to run his first international race, possibly in Vancouver, B.C., or Europe.

Photo: Kurt Austin shows off his 2012 racing medals. Photo by Heather Coit/The News-Gazette

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