Many of his peers said there was no way Ryan Hall was going to run away from the rest of the field in the Quad-City Times Bix 7.
Well, maybe not right away anyway.
Hall never moved to the front of the pack until about the five-mile mark of the annual race through the streets of Davenport, but once he did, it looked as though the other runners were running in quick sand.
The 27-year-old marathon star from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., pulled away in the final two miles to easily claim the U.S. 7-mile championship and the accompanying $12,000 first prize.
"I went into it with a really open mind,'' said Hall, who was running the Bix for the first time. "I didn't know what to expect. I was just running well within myself and it just worked out.''
Hall, who has emerged as the premier American marathoner of the past decade, is the first native born American male in 19 years to win the Bix 7. A few other runners who are U.S. citizens have won since then - including Meb Keflezighi last year -- but no one who was born in this country has won since Ken Martin in 1991.
His time of 32 minutes, 55 seconds was the slowest winning time since 1999, but Hall said he ran the race exactly the way he wanted to.
"I think we all run our best when we stay our own course rather than adjust to other people,'' he said. "I don't worry about what other guys are doing. I was just running my own course, staying with my own mission. Sometimes I win that way and sometimes I finish fourth, like I did at Boston.''
Antonio Vega, who was fifth in the Bix last year, was the runner who pushed the pace early. He said he thought he might have been ahead by as much as 100 meters at the McClellan Boulevard turnaround. James Carney, another Bix veteran, tried to stay close to him early and Scott Bauhs, one of Hall's training partners, came up with Vega during the fourth mile but they couldn't maintain the pace.
"But when I saw how big a lead I had at the turnaround, I knew somebody was coming,'' Vega said.
He said he tried to avoid looking back to check out the competition.
"I knew as soon as I started looking back, I was going to get more and more tired, and get more and more concerned,'' he said. "I just tried to focus on what was in front of me.''
As the runners made the long uphill climb back up Kirkwood Boulevard, a No. 3 singlet emerged from the pack trailing Vega.
It was Hall. He caught him within seconds and soon left him behind, opening an insurmountable lead by the time the runners began the descent down Brady Street.
"He went by me with some authority, that's for sure,'' Vega said.
"He's a strong runner so if anything that's what I expected, for him to really open it up at the end.''
Vega eventually faded to fourth place. Ed Moran of Williamsburg, Va., who won the U.S. 10k championship just three weeks ago, finished second with Sean Quigley of Philadelphia third and Carney fifth.
Moran, regarded as the runner with the best chance of challenging Hall, said he didn't feel as though he was at his best.
"For not feeling very well, I guess this is a pretty good finish,'' he said. " I think I benefited from the slower pace ... Some days you're clicking on all cylinders and some days you're not.''
Hall said he never considered himself the favorite even though almost everyone, including Keflezighi, had labeled him as such.
"I'm just getting going on my training while these other guys are in the middle of their season,'' Hall said. "I'm just working into my training for the big buildup to Chicago.''