SALT LAKE CITY — For Jenn Shelton, her first attempt at the Deseret News Marathon on Saturday morning was a challenging one.
"It was one of those races where you were working the whole way," she said. "It definitely didn't come easy today."
The Ashland, Ore., native blasted out of the gates with a pace of 5:45-minute miles as she made her way down East and Emigration canyons, descending nearly 2,500 feet over the first half of the course.
"That came back to bite me pretty hard," she said of her start.
Shelton was able to stay in control, though, and after making her move past Rael Murey — who ultimately finished in third place — at mile 19, Shelton sailed to the finish line first with a time of 2:54:23.
Typically an ultra-marathon runner, Shelton opted to scale back and go the 26.2-mile distance when race director Bob Wood called her up.
"I decided this year to maybe try a marathon and you know what? It's harder," she said. "I didn't train for this really. I was just doing my mountain runs. I guess if you want to run well in the marathon you have to train for it."
Shelton bested second-place Allie Scott, of Salt Lake City, by 12 seconds, and the close finish propelled the Utahn to a personal best time of 2:54:35.
The 23-year-old Utah State graduate found her position in third place five miles into the race and then followed Shelton past Murey when she reached mile 23.
"I've never been in a race that close so it really made it quite exciting," Scott said. "I wasn't even noticing my time until coming down the stretch and then I realized I was more focused on trying to catch (Shelton)."
Scott was the fastest runner in last year's Deseret News Marathon, but her second-place time was over five seconds faster than her finish a year ago (2:54:41).
"It's a tradeoff," she said when asked which race was a bigger success. "It's fun to win it but the PR makes me a little more happy because that's what you go for. You go for your goals more than really anything else, I think."
Like Shelton, Scott said the initial downhill portion of the course is a great challenge and, even though she has now completed this race five times, it never gets any easier.
"It's pretty difficult. Not so much the downhill but making sure you pace yourself for the downhill," she said. "The downhill makes you go faster, but at the same time it can make you run away from yourself and then have problems at the end. I just try to slow down a little bit, try to be a little bit conservative the first half, and then give whatever I have left to finish it out."
She added, "I don't think it ever gets any easier, but just the experience of knowing where I should let up and where I should really push it helps me to gauge my pace a little better."
Murey crossed the finish line at 2:58.26, followed by Danya Crawford (3:16:13) and Keri Hatch (3:17:03) to round out the top five.
Bountiful resident Dawn Lauti finished her second marathon on the path to 12 over the next year. She crossed the finish line in a personal best time of 4:17:51 and in 70th place overall. Lauti will take it easy for the next three weeks and then compete in the Park City Marathon in August.