The usual suspects – a murderer’s row of East African talents - will be there, but so will be the strongest American contender in the history of this event.
The Rock ‘N’ Roll San Diego Marathon always attracts a strong men’s elite field, and this year is no exception. But there are a couple of wrinkles, including the return of 1999 champion and course record holder Philip Tarus of Kenya and the Rock ‘N’ Roll debut of American Dan Browne.
Here’s a summary of the credentials of the top men’s contenders toeing the line at the 2009 running of the Rock ‘N’ Roll San Diego Marathon.
Dejene Berhanu (Ethiopia) – Bib #3
Ethiopia’s Dejene Berhanu has a strong chance to break Kenya’s strangehold on the men’s elite title. His sterling resume includes a fifth-place finish in the Athens Olympics 5000m, back-to-back victories at the Carlsbad 5000 in 2004 and 2005, and a national record-breaking performance at the half-marathon distance (59:37) in 2004. He has struggled, however, since running his debut marathon (a 2:08:46 clocking at Rotterdam) in 2006.
Khalid El Boumlili (Morocco) – Bib #6
Thirty-one-year-old Khalid El Boumlili runs a lot of marathons, and he almost always runs them well. His best performance was a breakthrough third-place finish in last year’s Boston Marathon, where he set his PR of 2:10:35. Could a Moroccan win the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon for the first time in 2009?
Dan Browne (USA) – Bib #2
Having recently moved to San Diego with his family, Dan Browne is making a strong competitive comeback after some injury-plagued years. He recently won the U.S. 25K National Championship-his 16th national title. Dan qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team in both the 10,000m and the marathon and narrowly missed qualifying again at the marathon distance in 2008. He won the 2005 Twin Cities Marathon with a time of 2:11:35, his best for the distance.
Abiyote Guta (Ethiopia) – Bib #5
Abiyote Guta brings a marathon PR of 2:10:38 to San Diego. His most recent marathon was a 2:11:18 performance in Japan earlier this year.
Samuel Mugo (Kenya) – Bib #1
Only 23 years old, Samuel Mugo has already run a sub-2:09 marathon, posting a time of 2:08:51 in winning the Xiamen International Marathon in January of this year. His 10,000m PR of 27:35, recorded as a 19-year-old junior, is among the fastest in this year’s elite field.
Tekesete Nekatibebe (Ethiopia) – Bib #7
Competing in the United States for the first time, young Tekesete Nekatibebe may be poised for a breakthrough. His personal best times for the half-marathon (1:02:12) and marathon (2:12:00) were both set last year.
Oleksandr Sitkovsky (Ukraine) – Bib #4
Oleksandr Sitkovsky can run a marathon faster than he can say his own name. The 31-year-old Ukranian posted a time of 2:10:18 in placing second at the Turin Marathon last year. His performances at shorter distances are much weaker than those of the other top contenders, however.
Philip Tarus (Kenya) – Bib #14
Philip Tarus still holds the course record at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon, 10 years after running 2:08:33 on a course that is only slightly different from the course used today. Tarus hasn’t done much lately, but he certainly has the talent to make a big comeback.
Tesfaye Tola (Ethiopia) – Bib #5
The peak of Tesfaye Tola’s career was his bronze-medal performance at the Athens Olympic Marathon in 2000. But while he may be in the autumn of his career, Tola is still dangerous, as he showed in running sub-2:10 in last year’s Dubai Marathon. And at 34, he’s not that old.