Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the Deseret News Half Marathon, Brett Hales has definitely hit his stride.
After all, the former Weber State steeplechase All-American has run the D-News' 13.1-mile road race in each of the last two years — and won it both times.
Hales, 27, notched his second-straight half-marathon victory Thursday morning, running away from the field with a time of 1 hour, 6 minutes and 44.1 seconds to win by almost a full minute ahead of the pack at the Liberty Park finish line.
Steve Shepherd of Hooper was second in 1:07:37.7, and Jason Holt of Kaysville came in third in 1:10:30.8.
In the women's half-marathon, Lindsey Dunkley of American Fork turned in a dominating performance to capture the D-News race for the first time, as her winning time of 1:14:46.4 was a full six minutes ahead of runner-up Jasmine Sessions of Farmington, who finished in 1:20:57.9.
For Hales, it's two Desert News Half Marathons and two victories — not bad for a guy who, when he attended Ogden High, chose to play soccer instead of run on the track team.
Oh, sure, he competed in cross-country for the Tigers' longtime coach, Don Hall. But, when track season rolled around in the spring, Hales decided he'd rather chase that black-and-white ball around instead of running laps around the track.
"I was a soccer player in high school," said Hales, who graduated from Ogden High in 2005. "I didn't do track; I was a cross-(country) guy and ran that. The soccer and track seasons coincided with one another, and I said there's no way I'm gonna run track. If I'm gonna run, I'm gonna run with a purpose."
He then walked on to the track team at Weber State, where legendary distance running coach Chick Hislop and his successor, Paul Pilkington, gave Hales a good attitude adjustment.
"Of course, you know, Hislop and Pilkington, they changed that mentality real quick," said Hales, who ran track as a freshman, went on an LDS Church mission, and then returned to run for three more years, earning All-American honors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase his junior and senior seasons before graduating from WSU in 2011.
"The first day of practice, I wore my soccer shorts and they're like, 'That's not gonna happen. You come with men's running shorts on tomorrow or we're gonna make you wear the women's shorts.'
"I think Pilkington and Hislop pride themselves on taking raw runners and turning them into elite guys in college," he said. "Chick turned me into a steeplechaser. I wasn't a very good freshman, but Chick saw something in me and when I got back from my mission, Coach Pilkington was the best coach to really have. And my last two years I was an All-American in the steeplechase. So I take my hat off to them."
Two years ago, Hales ran the Deseret News 10K and finished second to Pat Smyth, then decided to try the half-marathon last year.
And although this year's time was slightly slower than last year's due to a headwind at the beginning of the race, you can't argue with Hales' results.
"Last year, I decided to run the half," he said. "That's kinda my sweet race to run. It's long enough to where you can break away from your competition, but short enough where you can have some speed in there, too."
Hales now lives in Midvale and works at CHG, a physician staffing company in Cottonwood Heights.
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