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.
"It's nice," he said of his employer. "They afford me the opportunity to go run at lunchtime, so that's usually when I do a lot of my training is at lunch. They've been great about it. ... I've been training pretty much on my own and just running because I love it and because it's what I know how to do best."
Hales and his wife, Britney, have a 1-year-old daughter, Kynlee, who Hales hopes to have accompany him on the race course someday not too far down the road.
"I want to do a race where she's in a stroller and I'm gonna be pushing her," he said. "One day, one day I'm gonna do that. Hopefully I can instill something in her that has been instilled in me."
And, perhaps, try to steer her away from playing soccer instead.
Rounding out the top 10 finishers in the men's half-marathon were: 4) Justin Park, Sandy, 1:11:40.5; 5) Clyde Behunin, St. George, 1:13:50.3; 6) Jeff Johnson, Sandy, 1:14:23.0; 7) Andrew Archer, Park City, 1:15:37.4; 8) Steve Anderson, Logan, 1:15:51.5; 9) Corbin Talley, Layton, 1:16:17.9; and 10) Cley Twigg, North Salt Lake, 1:16:43.5.
Dunkley, a 35-year-old mother of three, had competed in the D-News 10K race in the past, but not since 2010. She had finished second at the shorter distance a couple of times and in the top four on another occasion, but she decided to go the longer route for the first time this year and it paid off for her.
"I never did win the 10K, so I was glad to win the half," said Dunkley, a former BYU track and cross-country runner who won the American Fork Half Marathon last month. "It was a way good experience as far as the race itself goes. But as far as the conditions, they were brutal. It was so hot; I've never done a half in more than 70-degree weather, and it was by far my slowest time.
"There were definitely some hot temperatures and some headwinds in the canyon that slowed everybody down, too, but I'm happy to win it. I think it affected everybody's time. I was hoping for around a 1:13.
"It was hot — that was the theme of the day," she said. "But it's always fun to run and it's a fun finish line at this race."
Dunkley, who graduated from American Fork High and now serves as an assistant coach on the girls track and cross-country teams at the school, had her three children — boys ages 14 and 10 and a 7-year-old daughter — before getting back into road racing in 2008.
"Now I just dabble more here and there," she said. "I don't train that much. I dedicate most of my miles to my coaching job. That's where my passion still lies is in coaching, and training is far down on the priority list."
Still, she has won the American Fork Half Marathon the last two years and clocked a winning time of 1:12.50 in this year's race.
"I was happy with my time in the A.F. Half a month ago," said Dunkley, whose parents — Reed and Hazel Argyle — were there to greet her at the finish line Thursday morning. "Just my parents came up and I was so glad they were there. There were those moments in the race where I was thinking, 'Oh, my!' and they're such sweet parents and really good supporters.
"Being a mom of three kids, there's always dance or sports or baseball or something going on. It's just busy, so the run is the easiest part of my day."
And she certainly made it look easy on Thursday.
The remaining top 10 finishers in the women's half-marathon included 3) Skye Murphy, Salt Lake City, 1:22:24.6; 4) Angie Beebe, South Weber, 1:23:07.5; 5) Aponi Porritt, Salt Lake City, 1:25:33.4; 6) Jami Caldwell, Kaysville, 1:26:46.6; 7) Julie Thomas, Holladay, 1:27:41.9; 8) Stefanie Talley, Layton, 1:28:05.7; 9) Susanne Hezel, Salt Lake City, 1:29:25.2; and 10) May Marschner, Salt Lake City, 1:30:18.1.