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Morgan Pearson’s Stunning Half-Marathon Debut

The Olympic hopeful topped pro runners in his first try at the distance.

U.S. Olympic triathlon hopeful Morgan Pearson clocked a 1:02:15 half marathon and topped a stellar field of professional runners at his half-marathon debut on Wednesday. Competing in the Michigan Pro Half Marathon, the 27-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, pulled away from a group of four to take the victory by just one second. 

Pearson learned on Monday that he has been given an invitation to the PTO Championship in Daytona, Florida, on Dec. 6. It will be his first time racing on a tri bike, which he just received last week and has only ridden once. 

We chatted with him a few hours after his surprise win, which we found out wasn’t much of a surprise to him.

Did you think the win or a time like that was in the cards for you? 
The win, yes. The time, definitely no. I ran a bit of the course the day before and thought it would be slow. It was on a bike path and it was very windy with some rolling hills. Nothing major, but when you’re running that long, that stuff just adds up. I thought the winning time would be about a minute slower. I had no idea what kind of time I’d run. There were some really good guys in the field, but I’ve beaten everyone in that field at some point in my life, so I thought there was no reason I couldn’t at least compete for the win. 

What’s the longest you’ve run, both in a race and in training? 
The longest I’ve gone in a race is just 10K in an Olympic-distance tri. In college, I used to run 18 miles pretty much every weekend. Now I usually do 15 or 16 for my long runs. I put in decent mileage—around 60 or 65 miles most weeks. 

Have you kept up your bike training in the last few weeks leading up to this race? 
I biked 11 hours last week. I did just 40 minutes on Monday, and then took Tuesday off the bike. 

What was the reaction like from the professional runners and the media who were there?
It was such a small race because of COVID. Everyone was super nice. I was interviewed by [three-time Australian Olympic runner] Lee Troop afterward. He was super cool and just said that he loves to watch me run and thinks it made for a more interesting race. 

Does this give you a little confidence boost heading into Daytona? 
I don’t know that it gives me that much extra confidence. I know I’m a good runner. Maybe a little dose of confidence, but I know that there are guys who are really good on a time-trial bike, and it’s basically a different sport. I want to fully respect that. And I want to commit to being on that bike and committing to that training over the next month. I think the experience is the big thing. Now I know what that distance feels like in a race (editor’s note: the run in Daytona is 11.2 miles). At least I know I don’t have to drill the run over the next month. I can just maintain it, and focus on biking and swimming. 

Have you talked with your coach about what your bike training is going to look like between now and Daytona? 
I just got my tri bike last Friday. And my coach, Dean Golich, has only let me ride it once, for an hour. He didn’t want me to beat myself up before this race. He also coaches Holly Lawrence, so I trust him. Will a month be enough time? We’ll see. But my goal isn’t to go out and have the fastest bike split or anything. I’m just trying not to get destroyed on the bike so I can have a good run. We already do a lot of long intervals on the bike—like 20, 30, maybe 50 minutes. That’s on a road bike and it’s usually climbing, but at least I have that base of long, hard intervals. It’s just about converting that over to the time-trial bike.