Three course records set and eight runners qualify for Olympic trials.
Written By: Dan Cruz
American record holder and Olympic Bronze medalist Deena Kastor returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in ten months today at the seventh annual P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon. Kastor set a new Arizona state record with a time of 1:09:43, ending the longest dry spell of her now-legendary career.
“This race solidifies that my training has been going well,” said Kastor, after her victory that smashed the 15-year-old state record of 1:13:39 set by Marie Boyd in Tucson. “Running sub 1:10 off this training makes me excited about my next phase going into the London Marathon in April. Today was the first time in a couple of years I felt like my old self running again.”
Kastor, who broke her foot during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon and spent most of 2009 recovering, ran an aggressive first mile in 4:54 and was on American record pace through four miles before a stubborn headwind and lack of competition slowed her in the second half. Reigning American marathon champion Ilsa Paulson of New York City finished a disappointing second in 1:17:04, well off her 1:13:20 personal best.
“I knew it could go only two ways, really good or really bad,” said Paulson. “I’ve been doing a lot of miles for many months, but the speed is just not there yet, it’s the last thing to come. I felt like I could run a 5:45 pace forever, but when I had to try to run a 5:20 pace to stick with Deena for the first two miles it just fried my legs.”
In the men’s half marathon, American record holder Ryan Hall was upset by Simon Bairu, the 2009 Canadian national champion at 5000 meters on the track and 10k on the roads. Running in only his second career half marathon, Bairu shadowed the more experienced Hall throughout the race. As the route turned right onto Desert Drive at 10 miles, the 26 year-old Bairu dropped the hammer with a 4:42 11th mile that left Hall 26 seconds behind his wake. By the time he reached the finish line at Arizona State University, Bairu’s lead had swelled to 1:21. His winning time of 1:02:47 was a 23 second personal best.
“My coach (Jerry Schumacher) told me to make this a ten mile race and, no disrespect to Ryan, but if we didn’t win it would have been a disappointment,” said Bairu, who bettered the course record by almost 2 minutes. “We knew Ryan would throw everything he had at me, but if I could weather the early storm, I felt that I would have the mental edge in the final miles. He is a world class athlete and I could never count him out.”
A two-time NCAA cross country champion while attending the University of Wisconsin, Bairu’s win makes him a hot commodity on the racing tour. He has his sights set on a debut marathon this fall. Hall, who is signed up for this April’s Boston Marathon, took a philosophical approach to his rare loss.
“The goal was to go out fast and practice for the pace I’ll need to run later this season,” said Hall, who passed the 2 mile mark in 9 minuets flat, sub 59:00 half marathon pace. “Boston is the big picture, so this was a test to see where I am and I still have New Orleans to go before Boston.”
Hall, the American record holder in the half marathon, is scheduled to run the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in six weeks for his final tune up before the Boston Marathon, where he took third place in 2009.
In the men’s marathon, Ethiopia’s Terfe Yea notched his second P.F. Chang’s title, adding the 2010 crown to his ‘07 victory. Yea finished in 2:12:41, 15 seconds ahead of Kenya’s Christopher Kipyego (2:12:56). Flagstaff Arizona’s Jeff Eggleston made a successful marathon debut running 2:14:32, good for sixth place as the top American. Eggleston’s performance qualified him for the US Olympic Marathon Trials.
In the women’s race, fellow Ethiopian Taaybe Naser set a course record with a time of 2:30:39. Arizona’s Alvina Begay was the top American in 2:37:14 good enough for fifth place overall. Begay, who trains with the McMillan Elite in Flagstaff, was one of eight Americans in the marathon who qualified for the Olympic Trials.
Both Yea, 29, and Naser, 23, earned $17,500 for their victory at the race, which attracted more then 32,000 entrants and had live bands, cheerleaders and themed water stations entertaining runners along each mile of the route.
“The Rock ‘n’ Roll events are always so much fun and this event embodies a celebration of fitness and running,” added Kastor. “There are thousands of people here that are so enthusiastic and really put it on the line today; it was an incredible weekend to be a part of.”
The event began at 6:30 am with the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Ultra, a special 50k completion hosted by Dean Karnazes. Senator John McCain started the gun for both the marathon and half marathon.
“The event exceeded my wildest expectations and I think it exceeded everyone’s expectations,” said Karnazes. “I was rapping out for the first 22 miles with a big group and several of the Ultra runners’ spouses had pizzas waiting out on the course. I had a delicious slice at about the halfway point.”
The eighth edition of the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon is set for Sunday, January 16, 2011.
1. Terefe Yae, 29, Ethiopia, 2:12:41, $17,500
2. Chris Kipyego, 35, Kenya, 2:12:56, $10,000
3. Meschack Kira, 34, 2:13:06, $5,000
4. Wegayhu Girma, 36, Ethiopia, 2:13:16, $3,000
5. Christopher Torotich, 28, Kenya, 2:13:56, $2,000
1. Teyba Maser, 23, Ethiopia, 2:30:39, $17,500
2. Meseret Legese, 22, Ethiopia 2:33:01, $10,000
3. Olena Shurkhno, 31, Unkraine, 2:33:15, $5,000
4. Selomie Getnet, 23, Ethiopia, 2:35:26, $3,000
5. Alvina Begay, 29, USA, 2:37:14, $3,500*
* Includes top American prize.