Chris Mocko (1:10:28) and Elle Pishny (1:23:53) win for the second-straight year.
SAN FRANCISCO — Victory was twice as nice for Chris Mocko at the Transamerica Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on Sunday morning, as the 28-year-old from San Francisco led the men’s race right off the starting line, eventually breaking the tape—or rather, playing “limbo” with it—in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 28 seconds to successfully defend his title from a year ago.
“It was gorgeous out there,” Mocko said of the clear skies and temperatures in the 50s that made for near-perfect racing conditions and afforded spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz island and downtown San Francisco. “I have a love-hate with the Golden Gate. It looks a lot flatter than it is.”
The Stanford alum broke away from the pack early, entering the bridge with a 16-second lead over runner-up Ivan Medina. He continued to expand his lead over the last 4 miles, covering the final 5K in a blistering 15:54 to best Medina (1:13:27) by three minutes. “We ran last year’s course all the time,” he said. “It was nice to get a chance of pace this year.”
In the women’s race, defending champion Elle Pishny of San Francisco also took advantage of her familiar surroundings, cruising to victory for the second straight year in 1:23:53. Pishny, who is prepping for the Boston Marathon on April 21, enjoyed the unrelenting up-and-down nature of the new 13.1-mile layout, which started on the Great Highway, traversed the Golden Gate Bridge and finished downtown at Civic Center Plaza—the first time a road race has concluded at the iconic venue since 1984.
“It was a great day,” Pishny said moments after crossing the finish line. “It was really cool to come over that hill and see the sunrise before going over the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a pretty special race. It’s sort of my regular training route through the Marina, coming up over Russian Hill. I run there all the time. I know the hills but they’re still pretty tough. It’s a tough race.”
Passing 5K all alone in 19:43, Pishny already held over a minute advantage on eventual second- and third-place finishers Megan Gentes (1:28:25) and Jen Yip (1:30:00). Coming off the Golden Gate Bridge, Pishny passed the 8-mile mark in 50:41, stretching her lead out to over three minutes—an advantage she continued to add to over the final 5 miles of the race. Pishny, who won last year’s inaugural event over a different course in 1:20:30, was looking to get in one last solid long training session before tackling Boston 15 days from now.
“I didn’t have any expectations,” explained Pishny, who in a little over two weeks hopes to improve upon her 2:44:40 marathon personal best set at Boston in 2011. “I’m training for Boston in a couple of weeks, so I just wanted to get in a good effort and get some positive momentum going into the marathon a couple weeks from now. I wasn’t too worried about time, just running for effort and get in one last long run before the marathon. I used to live in Boston. I have a lot of friends who live there. It’s a huge race and just thinking of everyone out there and what they’ve gone through is a big reason I’m going out there this year—to show support for the people of that city.”
More than 11,000 participants scaled the notorious hills of San Francisco for the second straight year, and The Tomorrow Chaser, a collaborative fundraising effort between title sponsor Transamerica and St. Jude Children’s Hospital, raised more than $7,500 for the nonprofit. The sponsor’s Chaser started in the last corral and raised one dollar toward St. Jude for every runner passed before the finish line. Former San Francisco 49er and Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose ambassador Roger Craig also braved the climbs and was all smiles after crossing the line in 1:47:28. “[The new course] was awesome and challenging,” he said. “The terrains were great, the scenes were great and then going over the Golden Gate Bridge is such an iconic experience. It was an epic event. Who wants to have the easy course? It’s all about challenging yourself—you feel better when you finish, because you know it was a tough course.”