Many Olympic Trials qualifiers using the race as a tune-up.
LOS ANGELES — It’s the only half-marathon run entirely within the City of Los Angeles, the second Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon benefiting the ASPCA will take over the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, October 30. Amidst the celebrity entrants and the glitz and glamour of the red carpet finish line, defending champions Jacques Sallberg and Linda Somers Smith will return to defend their Los Angeles titles against a formidable field of contenders.
Sallberg, 36, is a 1998 graduate of the University of Los Angeles and currently lives in Pasadena, California. He has been ranked as high as 4th in the 3000m Steeplechase by Track & Field News and won the inaugural Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles in 1 hour, 6 minutes, 27 seconds. Sallberg will be challenged by Hollywood, California’s Christian Hesch, a sub-4:00 miler who set his half-marathon PR of 1:04:32 by finishing 3rd at the recent Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon.
The other top contenders in the men’s field include U.S. 50K record holder Josh Cox and 2011 NACAC Cross Country champion Robert Cheseret, the younger brother of Bernard Lagat, who is making his half-marathon debut coming into Sunday’s race in top shape, having run a PRs over 5K and 15K earlier this year.
“We’re 11 weeks out from the big day in Houston and the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles will be a great fitness barometer as we head into the pivotal portion of our Olympic Marathon Trials preparation,” said Cox, who owns a half-marathon PR of 1:04:00. “The course is new so times are tough to predict, but the field is top notch so I’m going to get out there and compete – which is always the best, and most fun, way to race. This is my first time racing Rock ‘n’ Roll in LA, so I’m looking forward to a great event.”
The top-3 finishers from the 2010 event on the women’s side are returning, headlined by defending champ and Masters marvel Somers Smith of Arroyo Grande, California, as well as runner-up Cheryl Smith of Laguna Beach and third place finisher Joey Bonfiglio of Carlsbad.
A 1996 Olympian after running her career best 2:30:06 for second place at the 1996 Olympic Trials, Somers Smith, 50, has set U.S. 45-49 age group records for ten miles (a victory in 57:09), 10K (a victory in 33:39) and the half-marathon (a 1:13:32 for second place behind 2008 Olympian Blake Russell at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose in 2010).
Foremost among her competition to defend her title is 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist and U.S. record holder Deena Kastor, who attend high school in nearby Agoura Hills, California. Los Angeles will mark just the third race for Kastor since giving birth to her first child, Piper Bloom, this past February. The reigning Olympic Marathon Trials champion, Kastor is on a quest to make her fourth Olympic Team this coming January in Houston.
The 2011 event will feature a new route that will begin and end at L.A. LIVE. Keeping with the rock ‘n’ roll theme, Los Angeles runners and spectators alike will be treated to a finish line concert at L.A. LIVE by rock legend and reality star Bret Michaels.
The race begins at 7:30am on Figueroa St. and travels south down to the famous 1932 and 1984 Olympic site, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. From there runners can enjoy the famous Science Center at Exposition Park and then make their way past the iconic Shrine Auditorium, and toward City Hall, California’s tallest building – the U.S. Bank Tower – and Pershing Square.
Participants will run through the diverse neighborhoods of downtown Los Angeles including Little Tokyo and the Toy District, before winding their way back across the renowned 6th Street Bridge, catching an iconic view of the downtown skyline with the infamous Hollywood sign visible in the distance. The final miles intertwine through the high-rise corridors of downtown Los Angeles ending with a spectacular red carpet finish adjacent to the Staples Center at L.A. LIVE.
Race weekend kicks off with a two-day Health & Fitness Expo on Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 at the L.A. Convention Center. The free expo is open to the public and features more than 100 fitness retailers, exhibits, free samples and interactive clinics.
Among the 10,000 runners and walkers expected to participate in Los Angeles’ second musical mash-up will be members of Team ASPCA, who will help the ASPCA provide life-saving programs and services to millions of animals in need nationwide. The ASPCA is the first humane organization established in the Americas and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animal welfare.
“The ASPCA is honored to be the benefiting charity for this event, in what we hope will be a long-standing relationship with the community of Los Angeles and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series,” said Kymberlee Setterberg, director of the Team ASPCA. “Through this endurance program, we hope to offer animal advocates a new way to engage in team activities with peers who are passionate about helping the ASPCA provide life-saving programs and services to millions of animals nationwide.”