Jeffrey Redfern was hoping to set a personal record. He ended up with his first marathon title.
In only his fifth competitive marathon, Redfern — a 35-year-old Washington attorney for a nonprofit organization — ran the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 26 seconds to win the men’s division of the 18th annual Baltimore Running Festival on Saturday morning.
His best time in a marathon was 2:32:45 in the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 9, 2016, and his projected time Saturday was three minutes slower.
“I was thinking that I was going to run probably 2:35,” he said. “I was pretty shocked to be running this fast.”
On the women’s side, Julia Roman-Duval of Columbia captured her first marathon title in 2:47:42. Roman-Duval, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, was the runner-up in 2013.
Redfern took part in last year’s marathon as a tune-up for the New York Marathon, but did not finish the course to save his legs. That experience helped him craft a strategy for attacking the route this year.
“I knew from that how hilly it was,” he said. “I remember just seeing tons of people run ahead of me and then tire pretty early on from attacking it too hard. I was going to do the whole thing this time, but I knew no matter what that I had to be careful going up those hills because people who attack them too hard too early really pay for it later.”
Redfern trailed race leader Tyler Muse for the first 20 miles, but caught up to the 25-year-old Bel Air resident.
“He was coming back to me while I was running a pretty even effort,” Redfern said. “I was right with him, and he slowed down. So then I picked it back up to the pace that I was at before, and he fell away pretty quickly, I think.”
With a little more than three miles to go, Redfern said he contemplated trying to finish the race in less than 2:30.
“There was a little while there around 23 miles when I was thinking maybe I could get under 2:30,” he said in an interview with WBAL Radio. “And I was digging real deep and then I started doing the math, which is very hard to do when you’re that tired. I realized that was not going to happen, but I was safely going to get a PR and not fall to second place. So I eased up the last couple miles and enjoyed it.”
Redfern said he played soccer and ran sprints for the track and field team at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. He said he first took part in a marathon with a teammate from the soccer team as part of their offseason training.
“It just kind of grew from there,” he said.
Redfern was embraced at the finish line by his wife, Christina, who is an attorney in Baltimore. His win continued to resonate with her even after the race.
“I was basically shaking,” she said. “Just shaking with excitement. I wasn’t expecting his PR to be that much today.”
Like Redfern, Roman-Duval was familiar with the course because she had run it in the past, and because it is part of her commute to work.
The 36-year-old Roman-Duval said her initial plan was to run the marathon as preparation for the California International Marathon/USATF national championship on Dec. 2.
“It was a training workout,” she said. “There was no tape or anything. My legs are still pretty tired from all the training I’ve been doing. Actually, the last two or three miles were a bit rough, but I think for the most part, it felt exactly how I thought it would feel.”
A member of the Howard County Striders, Roman-Duval ran with a teammate for the first six miles before intensifying her pace.
“The priority was to stick with the plan and not hurt anything because I have a bigger race in December,” she said. “Once we got past mile six, it didn’t take very long to take the lead.”
When Roman-Duval crossed the finish line, her children, Liam, Luca and Clara, held the tape, and they joined husband, Miguel Roman, in celebrating her victory.
While the win might have been a surprise, Roman-Duval appreciated the unexpected outcome.
“It’s a much more fun way to do a hard workout instead of just doing it by myself in Columbia, I guess,” she siad.
At 36, Roman-Duval is the same age that Silvia Baage was when she claimed last year’s title, and she might be tied for the oldest woman to win the marathon.
Asked how she felt after the race, Roman-Duval said, “Old, but I’ve still got something under my belt. I picked up on it pretty late when I was 31. I can still PR at 36. So I think it’s fine.”
Last year’s men’s winner, Jordan Tropf, and women’s champion, Baage, did not return to try to repeat. The full results from this year’s marathon can be found at the Baltimore Running Festival’s website.