Drew Haro was perplexed when he picked up his race bib for Sunday’s Louisiana Marathon.
The spot reserved for his name was blank, but nearly every other runner’s name was pre-printed just below the number.
Haro quickly turned his confusion into opportunity. Using white ink, he scrawled a name under his number, but he chose to write Grace, not Drew.
Grace was for 17-year-old Grace Byrne, whom Haro coached as a cross-country athlete and has mentored at the University of Georgia Catholic Center, where he teaches religious education. Having suffered severe head injuries when a car struck her during a training run, Byrne is in a coma in an intensive care unit in Athens, Ga.
“That way, if anybody saw it when I was running and started cheering for Grace, it would be my way to dedicate the race to her,” Haro said. “I had a little extra motivation today. Say what you will about coincidence or divine intervention, but I thought it was a unique opportunity.”
Haro, a 27-year-old New Orleans native who ran cross country and track at LSU, turned that motivation into a personal-best time of 2 hours, 34 minutes, 2 seconds to win the Louisiana Marathon by more than nine minutes. The time nearly beat the course record of 2:33:42 set by Matt Manning in last year’s inaugural race.
“I saw what (Manning) ran last year and knew I was going to be close,” Haro said. “But instead of pushing it too hard in the middle and risk dying, I just kept it steady.”
Manning’s record was the only one that stood after Sunday. Racers took advantage of near-perfect conditions by breaking three of the four course records.
Rosalie Teeuwen was the top female finisher, clocking a 2:57:29 in just her second career marathon. Teeuwen, who shaved more than 20 minutes off her time from last year’s Louisiana Marathon, was striving to finish under three hours but admitted she thought it was “a stretch” before the race.
The 33-year-old is a Baton Rouge resident but hails from the Netherlands. She used running to get to know people in the area.
“Being in Baton Rouge, I’ve gotten to know so many people training with the (Varsity Sports) group,” Teeuwen said. “Everybody was running today and cheering each other on. It was great.”
Monroe resident Michael Anderson turned in a blistering 1:14:37 to win the half marathon and set the course record. Anderson called it “the first major win” of his running career. He caught up with the leaders around Mile 8, then turned on the jets.
“I just took a little surge to see if anyone wanted to go with me,” Anderson said. “No one wanted to go. I just kept going.”
Mandeville resident Rachel Booth ran a 1:17:19 to secure the top female spot in the half marathon and top the course record by more than 12 minutes. It was her first time competing in the Louisiana Marathon; she ran in the Olympic marathon trials in Houston during last year’s race.
Manning chose not to defend his marathon title, instead running the half marathon this year. He took a three-month break to deal with Achilles tendinitis and only spent four weeks training for the 13.1-mile race; he finished third.
But Manning surprised himself with his result, finishing more than two minutes ahead of his goal pace.
“It was the longest I’ve ran in four months,” he said. “I felt really comfortable. Toward the end, I felt like I was dying, but it was a blast.”