“I’m very happy to be part of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans,” said Wanjiru, who set his first half-marathon world record in 2005 as an 18 year-old in Rotterdam with a time of 59:16.
He subsequently took back the world record in 2007 with a 58:53 time at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirattes, which Haile Gebrselassie had broken at the ‘06 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona ½ Marathon (58:55). Wanjiru then bettered his record by another 20 seconds on March 17th of that year in the City-Pier-City Loop in The Hague, The Netherlands (58:33).
“The race is perfect timing in my build up to the London Marathon,” explained Wanjiru. “I know it will be very competitive, and should be very fast. I’m coming to do my best and hope for a great performance.”
The first Kenyan to win the Olympic Marathon Gold Medal, Wanjiru, 22, boasts an impressive running resume over such a relatively short career. Having only begun running at age 15, his list of global achievements already include course record wins at both the 2009 London Marathon (2:05:10) and 2009 Chicago Marathon (2:05:41) – both represent the fastest times ever run in the respective nations. With his wins in Beijing, London, and Chicago he earned the 2008-2009 World Marathon Majors championship, and its $500,000 bonus. New Orleans’ history for record road performances coupled with its flat course provides an ideal stage for Wanjiru to assault his own world record.
“Attracting the likes of Sammy Wanjiru to New Orleans was always our goal at the Competitor Group, and it shows our commitment to attracting the biggest names in the world of running,” said Matt Turnbull, Elite Athlete Coordinator. “We’re excited to have the world record holder and Olympic Gold medalist on the start line next month. We are still working hard and hope to bring in more big names and to challenge Sammy over the half-marathon distance.”
It was originally planned for Wanjiru to face American superstar Ryan Hall over the 13.1-mile course, but Hall has unfortunately been forced to pull out of the head-to-head encounter. He recently finished second at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona ½ Marathon in 64:08.
“We are obviously disappointed to lose Ryan Hall from the field,” added Turnbull, who had hoped to pair the American and World Record holders in New Orleans. “We respect his decision to focus on getting himself in shape for the Boston Marathon. His disappointment was obvious to see with how things went in Arizona, and so we wish him well over the next few months.”
For more information on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras or to register online, please visit http://mardi-gras.competitor.com or call (800) 311-1255.