Sallberg, Somers Smith steal the show at celebrity-laced event.
Written by: Mario Fraioli
It was the celebrities who got all the pre-race attention at the starting line of the inaugural Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon on Sunday morning, but it was a couple of local runners who stole the show at the finish line.
Employing an emphatic move with three quarters of a mile to go in the race, 36-year-old Jacques Sallberg of Pasadena pulled away from Lafayette, Louisiana’s Kevin Castille to win in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 25 seconds. Castille, who finished fifth in 1:06:47 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon three weeks ago, had no response for Sallberg’s sensational surge but held on to finish second in 1:06:43.
“My only goal was to win,” said Sallberg, who ran a personal best by almost two minutes. “I live close to here so this was real exciting. I’m in good shape and getting ready for a full marathon in a few weeks so this is a big confidence boost for me.”
Oceanside’s Sergio Gonzalez, who won the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in early June, rounded out the top 3 with a 1:07:53 finish.
Sallberg and Castille separated themselves from the rest of the field just before the race’s 5-mile mark. The pair ran together for the next seven and a half miles, trading jabs up and down the hills that made up the second half of the race route, before an exciting final mile heading into the finish line downtown. Castille tried to make a decisive surge up and over the Beaudry Ave. Hill with a mile and a half to go, but Sallberg wouldn’t let him get too far ahead.
“He helped me out a lot,” Sallberg said of Castille. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have run that fast. He helped me out a lot.”
In the women’s race, the second time was the charm for Arroyo Grande’s Linda Somers Smith, as the 49-year old former U.S. Olympic marathoner won in dominating fashion. Crossing the finish line in 1:14:45, Smith outdistanced herself from the second-place finisher Cheryl Smith of Laguna Beach by 3 minutes and 22 seconds.
“I was hoping to run around 1:16,” said Smith, who is preparing for the ING New York City Marathon on November 7. “I tried to hold back but I felt good.”
This was the second Rock ‘n’ Roll event this month for Smith, who ran a pending U.S. 45-49 age-group record of 1:13:31 in finishing second to 2008 U.S. Olympic marathoner Blake Russell at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon on October 3. Now just two weeks away from her New York City Marathon debut, Smith is heading to The Big Apple with a high level of fitness and loads of confidence.
“It gives me more confidence,” said Smith, who in New York will be trying to improve upon the 2:36:33 she posted in finishing sixth at the L.A. Marathon earlier this year.
Finishing in third place behind Somers Smith and Smith was Johanna Bonfiglio of Carlsbad, who crossed the finish line in 1:19:14.
Over 12,000 runners took part in the inaugural Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon, which started in Griffith Park and finished downtown at L.A. Live. A handful of notable celebrities started the race, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was accompanied along the course by Olympic bronze medalist and mom-to-be Deena Kastor, actors Jerry O’Connell and James Marsden, along with former NFL great Roger Craig.