You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

A year after his first race, Neil Rao wins second annual Ann Arbor Marathon

By Kyle Austin


The pack of runners head North on Main Street during the Ann Arbor Marathon on Sunday, June 9.

Daniel Brenner I


A little over a year ago, Neil Rao’s workouts consisted of going to the gym and spending some time on the elliptical machine.

When friends encouraged him to try competitive distance running, he thought it would give him a reason to travel around the country for races and see different friends.

Winning races wasn't on the radar. But fourteen months after running his first marathon, he recorded his first win.

Rao crossed the finish line first at Sunday’s 2nd annual Ann Arbor Marathon, finishing in a time of 2:41:06.

“People said it’s a fun thing to do, a way to see different places and visit friends, so I started training for one, did pretty well in my first one and wanted to see how much better I could get,” Rao said of marathons.

Rao won the race by four minutes over second-place finisher Jake Gillette.

Josephine Weeden won the women’s race in a time of 3:04:26, ninth overall.

06092013_SPT_AAMarathon_DJB (1).JPG

The Ann Arbor Marathon men's first place finisher talks with other participants on Sunday, June 9.

Daniel Brenner |

The three were part of a group of more than 400 that finished Sunday’s marathon race at Elbel Field. Nearly 900 finished the half marathon, and 576 finished the 5-kilometer run/walk.

Ann Arbor marked Rao’s fifth marathon, after running his first one Washington D.C. in March 2012. He signed up for Ann Arbor when he was picking a weekend to visit his parents in Michigan and a friend suggested he time it to coincide with the race.

Rao, who now lives in Seattle, admitted he’s surprised he’s been this successful so soon in his running career.

“I sort of picked it up,” Rao said of marathon running. “It’s fun."

Rao said he took the lead on Geddes, within the first three miles of the course, and never lost it through a hilly course that competitors said was more challenging than last year.

“By 24 I started cramping in my left calf, I was worried that somebody was going to pick me off at the end,” Rao said. “So you’re just playing these mind games ‘No they won’t, no they won’t’, and trying to convince yourself that you’re going to be all right.”

As opposed to last year, when neither marathon winner had stepped foot in Ann Arbor before the race, both the male and female winners this year had ties to the University of Michigan and the area.

06092013_SPT_AAMarathon_DJB (2).JPG

Josephine Weeden crosses the finish line first among female Ann Arbor Marathon runners

Daniel Brenner |

Both Rao and Weeden went to school at Michigan, and Weeden is now an adjunct clinical assistant professor in Michigan’s School of Dentistry. Rao is originally from Novi, and Weeden lives in Saline.

Weeden was never challenged in the female field, finishing seven minutes faster than the runner-up.

Her time was 16 minutes faster than her personal best, she said, a number she attributes to the fact that she trained for a race much longer. Weeden ran the Keys 100 Mile Run in Florida last month, her second ultramarathon.

“I was training for a 100-miler, so this seemed easy,” Weeden said. “I know that seems weird, but it’s true.”

Weeden ran the marathon last year, and said she finished an hour slower while pacing her husband. This year her husband had a foot injury, and other members of her group dropped as well. So Weeden ran by herself, and found her pace faster than she expected.

“Everyone else bailed but me, so I ran solo,” Weeden said.

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.


Aaron Mercer

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

I ran this race last year (as did a few of my friends) and we still can't figure out why the race has to have the last 10K of the marathon looping around Briarwood Mall. There are a ton of trails/green space, etc. in the northern and western ends of Ann Arbor that should be capitalized on, and this could also mitigate some of the traffic issues in town.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

I agree, the Brairwood part was so tedious! I would love to see it on a greenway!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

We have a really nice greenbelt you should be touring as part of the marathon. That would help a lot with traffic as well.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

I enjoyed watching all the finishers yesterday!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

This race is badly thought out, badly run, poorly attended (402 finishers) and of low quality (Winning time 2:40:00ish). As long as it follows the world-renowned Dexter-Ann Arbor Run by one week, it will always be poorly attended...with lesser runners. A quick look at the race course map reveals poor, chaotic planning. Crossing open streets such as State Street…? A recipe for disaster!


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

@AlwaysLate: First of all, there were over 500 marathon runners, second, there were MANY more half marathon, 5k and 1.2 mile runners, meaning the total event had several thousand participants. And most importantly, this is NOT DeA2! No one wants it to be, it is a DIFFERENT EVENT! You don't have to compare it to anything. Thousands of people had a great time at the event, many of them were from Ann Arbor!


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

johnnya2 & fjord- 402 marathon runners is poor attendance. Dex-A2 1/2 marathon the week before had 12,000 many more runners in the 10K & 5K. 2:40:00 is a poor winning time...unless, of course, you are a 4:00:00 marathoner. I never criticize unless I know what I'm talking about...ran 1:18:36 for the 1/2 at Dex-A2 (2:36:00 marathon equivalent)...and that's a poor time. How fast did you run the marathon? Did you run?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Poorly attended? Low quality? The Sunburst Races in South Bend, an event with 30 years of history (and also a Boston qualifier) had 497 finishers this year, and the winning time was 2:36:49. For only being its second year, the Ann Arbor Marathon has already put itself on par with other Midwestern races of note. If you're going to criticize, you should at least know what the heck you're talking about.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

1900 people from where? Nope, just an inconvenience for the benefit of a handful of people. Wouldn't it be just as much fun if they found an a less disruptive place to run?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

So what disaster occurred? Oh thats right there was NOT a disaster, other then to those who have some bug up their butt about anything that is new. By the way, there were over 1900 participants.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Given his rapid ascent from non-runner to marathon winner, I'm curious about Neil Rao's age. Neither this article nor the official race results provide this information.

Kyle Austin

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

Sorry fjord, I should have asked Neil his age (I wrongly thought it would be in the official results.) I agree with Taylor that he looked somewhere in mid 20's


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

I think he's a young man, mid 20s? He looked about 25 when I saw him at the event!


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

This race had serious safety problems. The course crossed State Street, which was kept open. Cars were required to wait until runners went through, but then would speed after being allowed through. Runners prefer to run along the midline to avoid the road curvature, increasing their risk of being hit by traffic. Increased police presence, alteration of the race course, better signage, and increased staff are needed if the marathon is to continue. Low turnout is in part due to proximity with the Dexter Ann Arbor run. Why wasn't this race scheduled to allow for more recovery time? Many more people would run.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

Let's see some financial accounting. How much money was taken in by the for-profit company running this race? How much will be paid out to charities and which ones, specifically? Who paid for all the extra city services during the race?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

It would also be interesting to know what percentage of participants are actually from here. Is it more of a local event or is it a tourist event?