Solid elite fields will line up for Sunday’s celebrity-laced race.
Written by: Mario Fraioli
The biggest names taking part in the celebrity-laced Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon aren’t the elite athletes, but that doesn’t mean the races at the front of the field on Sunday morning won’t be competitive.
Former UCLA standout Drew Shackleton is the hometown favorite, as the Los Angeles resident will step to the starting line with bib #2 on his chest. He enters the race with a recently posted marathon best of 2:16:31 set on October 3 at the Twin Cities Marathon. Shackleton finished 5th in that race, which doubled as the USA Men’s Marathon Championship.
Shackleton will be surrounded by a handful of 64-66 minute half marathon runners, including Lafayette, Louisiana’s Kevin Castille, a former Olympic Trials qualifier in the 10,000 meters who has a 1:05:47 half marathon best to his name. Castille finished fifth at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon on October 3, running 1:06:47.
Morro Bay’s Christian Hesch, best known for his baggy shorts and middle-distance exploits on the track, will wear bib #4. Although he qualified for numerous national championships in the 1,500 meters on the track, Hesch is no stranger to long-distance road races, either. He enters the race with a half marathon PR of 64:45 set two years ago in Naples, Florida.
Wearing bib #1 will be Oceanside’s Sergio Gonzalez, a 26-year old who won June’s inaugural Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Half Marathon in 1:07:18. He also won the La Jolla Half Marathon, conquering the tough course this past April in 1:09:48.
Mark Batres, who ran collegiately at Cal Poly Pamona, is not to be forgotten about either, as the former five-time NCAA All-American has a 13.1-mile best of 1:05:21 to his credit, set earlier this year at the Houston Half Marathon.
In the women’s elite race, bib #1 goes to the most experienced, and accomplished runner in the field, 1996 U.S. Olympian Linda Somers Smith, who set a U.S. 45-49 age-group record of 1:13:31 in finishing second to 2008 Olympian Blake Russell at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon on October 3. Smith, who is prepping for the New York City Marathon on November 7, has qualified for a record seven U.S. Olympic Trials Marathons.
Athletes with personal bests in the range of 1:16 round out the rest of the women’s field, led by 30-year-old Cheryl Smith of Laguna Beach. Smith, who competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, set her PR of 1:16 at this race in 2007, when it was known as the City of Angels Half Marathon. Johanna Bonfiglio of Carlsbad, who finished third at the Carlsbad Half Marathon earlier this year, carries a best of 1:16:56. Los Angeles’ Christine Bolf, who has a 10K PR of 33:26, is making her half marathon debut.
Over 15,000 runners, including a lineup of celebrities featuring the likes of Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jerry O’Connell and the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, will take part in the inaugural event, which starts in Griffith Park, runs through Silver Lake, down Sunset Blvd., past Echo Park Lake and finishes downtown at L.A. Live.