All Danya Crawford wanted to do was set a personal best.
Since running her first marathon in 2009, she’d gone from 3:26 to 2:50, and on September 14, heading into the Big Cottonwood Marathon in Murray, Utah—her twelfth 26-miler—she was hoping to continue the trend.
As it happened, the 33-year-old mother of two did one better. Not only did she finish in 2:46:30, meeting her goal by more than three minutes, but she also won the race outright, beating all 1,300 fellow competitors, male and female.
“People had been shouting ‘First woman, first woman’ for the last few miles, but I didn’t realize I won the whole race until after I finished,” Crawford said in an interview with Runner’s World.
Indeed, as she pushed through the “lonely and hard” final six miles, Crawford figured at least one male runner was somewhere out ahead of her. But runner-up Cameron Kasteler, last year’s champ, was trailing behind, and he wouldn’t cross the finish line until 2:49:51, more than three minutes after her.
After the race, Crawford hugged her husband and daughters and collected a plaque and $500 check from Murray’s mayor, Dan Snarr. At the awards ceremony, when the men’s top three finishers claimed their prizes, Kasteler graciously Kasteler stepped down from the podium and let Crawford have another moment in the limelight.
“It felt really good,” Crawford said, “but it was also a little embarrassing.”
While many 2:46 marathoners would set a sub-2:45 as their next goal, Crawford said she’s gunning for 2:43, the standard to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. She stands to climb a few more awards podiums en route to that benchmark, but that’s hardly what’s driving her.
“Really, I was so much more excited about the PR than winning,” Crawford said. “That was just icing.”