The San Diego native romps to victory in his final race before the Olympic Games.
SAN DIEGO — The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon lasts for 13.1 miles, but Meb Keflezighi made sure this year’s edition was over in less than 10 minutes.
Building momentum after a strong opening mile of 4:39, the reigning champion from San Diego split from fellow U.S. Olympian Ryan Hall before the two-mile mark and continued to stretch out his lead all the way to the finish line, which he crossed unchallenged in 1 hour, 3 minutes and 11 seconds.
“It’s always great to win here in San Diego,” the 37-year-old Keflezighi said after the race. “To win is a big thrill. I expected Ryan to be there, but I always run to win, meaning that I get the best out of myself. I’ve never been the guy that waits and shoots the last two miles and I hope nobody does that to me. It’s just good to be testing the limits from the get go and that’s what I did.”
Hall ran unchallenged for second in 1:05:39, while Costa Rica’s Cesar Lizano, who will represent his country in the marathon at the London Games, finished third in 1:07:28.
After an opening 5K of 14:31, Keflezighi found himself 19 seconds up on Hall, who was running all alone in second place. Keflezighi extended his lead with each passing mile, and by the 10K mark (29:23) was 47 seconds ahead of Hall, who said after the race he felt flat during the second half of the race.
“I was pleased with how I was feeling early on but 4:40 (first mile) was just too hot for me at this point and I knew that,” Hall said after the race. “My goal was to run 4:50 pace so I was kind of kicking myself partway through the race. Not that 4:40 is fast, but it just wasn’t what I was looking to accomplish today, so I probably put myself in a bit of a hole.”
Kim Smith of New Zealand, who will be in contention for a medal in the women’s Olympic Marathon on August 5, ran away with the women’s race, breaking the tape in 1:08:37. Originally slated to take part in a one-on-one grudge match against American marathon champion Shalane Flanagan, who withdrew from the race earlier this week, Smith ran unchallenged to the finish line over the challenging 13.1-mile layout.
“I didn’t realize the course was quite as tough as it was so I was kind of dying a little bit on the hills,” Smith said after the race. “But it was fine. It’s hard when there’s no other women to run against. It’s just a little bit harder to push yourself, but it was fun.”
Hitting the 5K mark in 15:50 and 10K in 31:54, Smith clicked off miles between 5:05 and 5:20 for most of the race’s first 10 miles. A slight headwind combined with a few uphills and twisting turns over the race’s final 5 kilometers slowed Smith’s rhythm a bit, but the Providence College grad felt her effort was solid preparation for the Olympic Marathon in nine weeks.
“Preparation is going well,” Smith said after the race. “It’s always good to get more experience, and every time I’ve done the preparation it’s gone easier.”
Ariana Hilborn, a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier from Scottsdale, Arizona, who is prepping for Grandma’s Marathon on June 16, finished second in 1:15:32. Lindsay Tollefson of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., also a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, rounded out the top-3 in 1:18:47.