Keflezighi Set To Defend In San Jose On Sunday

Meb Keflezighi returns to San Jose this weekend to defend his Rock 'n' Roll Marathon title. Photo: Ollie Neglerio

Meb Keflezighi returns to San Jose this weekend to defend his Rock 'n' Roll Marathon title. Photo: Ollie Neglerio

Olympian Blake Russell headlines women’s elite field at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon.

Written by: Dan Cruz

Defending Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi will lead a field of more than 13,000 entrants at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon on Sunday.  Now in its fifth year, Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose is recognized as California’s fastest half marathon, and Meb will once again look to use the lightning quick course as a launching pad to victory at the ING New York City Marathon on November 7, the same countdown he utilized so successfully in 2009.

“We are thrilled to have Meb defending his title in San Jose this weekend as he prepares for the ING New York Marathon in November,” said Matt Turnbull, Elite Athlete Coordinator for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. “Meb is a great competitor, and is truly one of America’s most inspirational athletes. He really set the stage for his NYC win in San Jose last year, and we are all hoping to see a similar preview again this weekend.

A three-time national 10,000-meter track champion (2000, 2002, 2004), the 35-year-old Keflezighi has won 20 USA road, track, and cross country titles during his illustrious career.  But the highlight to date came at the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens where Meb picked up the silver medal, becoming the first American male to earn an Olympic marathon medal since Frank Shorter’s silver at Montreal in 19761976.

The Bay Area has proven to be a place of good fortune during Keflezighi’s career.  He broke the American 10,000-meter track record in Palo Alto in May 2001 (27:13.98), a time which stood for nine years until it was broken by the Oregon Track Club’s Chris Solinsky this season.  And during last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, Keflezighi’s unofficial 20K split (12.4 miles) of 57 minutes, 52 seconds was better than Mammoth Track Club teammate Ryan Hall’s American 20K record by two seconds. Keflezighi went on to post a winning time of 1:01:00 in San Jose,  a 25-second improvement over his  previous best which came in winning the 2009 U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Houston.

Following last year’s San Jose run, Keflezighi made more history by becoming the first American male to win the ING New York City Marathon since 1982. His winning time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 15 seconds was also personal best.

“I’m delighted to return to San Jose to defend my title. Last year it was a great opportunity for me to see where I was before the ING New York Marathon, the race went well and we all know what happened in New York,” said Keflezighi, who will be inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame on Friday. While a Bruin, Meb captured four NCAA titles in track and cross country.

“Defending two titles in the space of a month is special,” he continued.  “Everything worked out so well last year that I don’t want to change my preparation in 2010.”

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose is home to both of the current California state half marathon records: 1:00:22 by Kenya’s Duncan Kibet in 2006, and 1:09:17 by Russia’s Silvia Skortsova, also in 2006.

In the women’s race, the role of favorite falls on U.S. Olympian Blake Russell of Pacific Grove, California.  She finished third at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials in Boston and went on to finish 27th at the Beijing Games.

Russell will be joined by a deep regional field of the top runners in the Bay Area, including Dena Evans of Redwood City, who finished fourth in San Jose last year; Rachel Booth of Mountain View, who ran 33:22 for 10,000 meters at the Stanford Invitational this spring in Palo Alto; Heather Gibson of Piedmont, who has recently won the Huntington Beach Half Marathon and the Jacksonville Half Marathon; Lauren Johnson of Palo Alto, top American last two years at the Big Sur Half Marathon; and Heather Tanner MacFalls of Menlo Park, who represented the U.S. National team at the World Half Marathon Championships in 2004.

“It’s always exciting to welcome so many world-class athletes to San Jose on the first weekend in October,” said Roger Craig, race founder and 3-time Superbowl Champion with the San Francisco 49ers. “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon has already established a great tradition in San Jose, it does so much for the community and charity, and we are looking forward to five more great years.”

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