International Stars Added To NYC Half Field

Two-time NYC Marathon champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos after winning the 2011 South American Half Marathon Championships in Buenos Aires. Photo: Courtesy

The fastest half marathoner ever on U.S. soil, Kim Smith, will compete.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK — The New York Road Runners announced Thursday that some of the distance running’s top international stars would run the seventh annual NYC Half on Sunday, March 18, joining USA Olympians Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher, Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein at America’s most competitive spring half-marathon.

Race director Mary Wittenberg, the NYRR’s president and, called the additions to the race “a dynamic field of stars,” adding that “the NYC Half will provide a thrilling preview” for this summer’s Olympic Marathon.

RELATED: American Stars Will Shine At NYC Half Marathon

Leading the list on the women’s side are defending champion, Caroline Rotich of Kenya (1:08:52 PB); the fastest-ever women’s half marathoner on U.S. soil, Kim Smith of New Zealand (1:07:11); and reigning ING New York City Marathon champion, Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia (1:09:26).  Also expected to start the women’s race are Olympians Jo Pavey of Great Britain (1:08:53), Madai Perez of Mexico (1:09:45), Hilda Kibet of the Netherlands (1:08:39), and Lisa Jane Weightman of Australia (1:09:00).  London Olympic hopefuls include Olesya Syreva of Russia (1:09:52), Irvette Van Blerk of South Africa (1:10:56), Yolanda Caballero of Colombia (1:12:35), and Claire Hallissey of Great Britain (1:12:02).

“Winning the NYC Half last year made me believe that anything is possible if I train hard,” said Rotich through a statement from her training base in Santa Fe, N.M.. “It made me believe that I can win more and more. The first time I went to New York, it was so busy and it was too much for me!  But the more I go back, it gets easier and easier. I love all the crowds that come out to watch in New York. Now, I’m really excited to go back and try to defend my title.”

Marilson Gomes Dos Santos, twice the winner of the ING New York City Marathon and the South American record holder for the half-marathon (59:33), will be one of the top contenders in the men’s field, Wittenberg said.  In addition to the American stars, Dos Santos will have to worry about three exceptional Africans who are sure to be fighting for the win: Feyisa Lilesa and Deribe Merga of Ethiopia, and Peter Cheruiyot Kirui of Kenya.  Lilesa was the bronze medalist in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships last summer, and blasted a course record and personal best 59:22 at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon last January.  Merga was the 2009 Boston Marathon champion and has a half-marathon career best of 59:15.  Kirui finished sixth at last summer’s IAAF World Championships at 10,000m and boasts a half-marathon personal best of 59:40.

“I am excited to be returning to New York for the NYC Half,” Gomes said in prepared remarks. “My two wins in the ING New York City Marathon have been the most important victories of my running career, and last year the NYC Half prepared me well for the personal best that I set in the Virgin London Marathon. I’m hoping to run even faster in both races in this important Olympic year.”

Other international entrants on the men’s side include Morocco’s Abderrahime Bouramdane (1:03:07+ PB), Kenya’s Wesley Korir (1:02:40), Canada’s Eric Gillis (1:03:34), and Kenya’s Sam Chelanga (1:03:41).  In a special arrangement with the Ageo City Half-Marathon, the two top Japanese collegiate athletes from that race will also be competing, Kento Otsu (1:02:43) and Yuta Shitara (1:02:35).

The NYC Half is extraordinarily competitive.  According to the independent Association of Road Racing Statisticians, the NYC Half was the most competitive half-marathon in the United States last year for both men and women.  The race boasts a $100,000 prize money purse, and a $20,000 first prize, both the largest for any American half-marathon.

The NYRR expanded the field for this year’s event to 15,000 athletes who will run on a new course from Central Park to the South Street Seaport.  The race will be televised live by WABC, and the telecast will also be available on-line at tv.nyrr.org beginning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

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