Simon Bairu Wins Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon

Simon Bairu breaks the tape just ahead of Sergio Reyes at this morning's Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Clara Horowitz Peterson wins women’s race in 1:12:52.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With its alluring mix of all the right ingredients: a fast and flat course, ideal climate, spectator-lined streets and solid competition, the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon has established itself as the place to go in California for runners in search of a 13.1-mile personal best. More than 14,000 entrants took part in the seventh annual Bay Area event this morning with that goal in mind.

A two-time Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series champion, Canada’s Simon Bairu outlasted a competitive men’s field to win in 1:03:28, two seconds ahead of second place finisher Sergio Reyes of Palmdale, Calif. While it was a big win on Bairu’s resume, it was an impressive race for Reyes, who shattered his half-marathon personal best by 35 seconds and dictated the pace through most of the early miles. Both Bairu and Reyes will run the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 4, now just four weeks away.

RACE PHOTOS: Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon

“My coach told me to wait to until 10 miles, but I got a little antsy early and wanted to test where everyone was at. I wasn’t sure if I got the win or not until the very end,” said Bairu, a two-time NCAA cross country champion at the University of Wisconsin. “You can’t ask for better weather for a half marathon. It was amazing out there. The most important part of the race was that I was able to finish strong, I really felt like I could have kept going a few more miles, which is what you want after a hard half-marathon effort. This is a huge confidence booster and I’m excited for my next performance.”

Reyes shared a similar sentiment. “I came here for a time and to run a good race, run strong and put forth a good effort. I check in with my coach weekly and he will probably say today was aces,” said Reyes, who won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon in February. “Nothing in my training really indicated I was ready to run a PR, but I did have a sensation that there might be some surprises today. It was a great weather day and a great course so the opportunity was there. The crowd was awesome, especially at the end when it felt like we were doing an all-out sprint running side by side the last three miles.”

The race started with a lead pack of six men, which included Bairu, Reyes, Scott Bauhs, Josephat Boit and Russian Marathon record holder Aleksey Sokolov, running an opening mile of 4:53 and hitting the 5K mark in 15:07. At the 10K mark it was down to four, with Reyes and Bairu exchanging the lead. With Bauhs falling off the lead pack, Bairu made a big move at 9 miles and only Reyes could match. The two men ran stride for stride, hitting the 12-mile mark in 58:06 and Bairu was able to hold on for the victory.

“Sergio ran tough, he made the race today and Bairu was able to hold on for the lead,” said third-place finisher Bauhs, an avid San Francisco Giants fan who attended the playoff game the night before. “I’m looking forward to heading back to Mammoth and training hard for New York. I’ll do some training with Meb, who’s on fire right now. It’s unbelievable he could come back from the Olympics and be in what seems to me like the best shape of his life.”

The race’s three-time defending champion, Meb Keflezighi, was unable to return to San Jose in between the Olympic Marathon on August 12 and the upcoming New York City Marathon. Bauhs and Keflezighi are teammates at the Mammoth Track Club.

In the women’s race, Bay Area Track Club member Clara Horowitz Peterson took home the victory with a time of 1:12:52. A five-time NCAA All-American at Duke University, Peterson ran uncontested the entire way. She is training for the California International Marathon in December, which will be her second career marathon. She finished 15th in her debut at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials this past January in Houston.

“What I liked about today, there was a lot of energy with the all of the spectators and cheerleaders. It was a lot of fun with the community out supporting the runners. This is what it’s all about,” said race co-founder Roger Craig, a three-time Super Bowl Champion with the San Francisco 49ers. “It was a big weekend in the Bay Area, the weather was perfect and the cool thing is it’s starting to be contagious now with everyone buying in to this event. I love it.”

Known as California’s fastest half marathon, the event is home to both of the current California state half-marathon records: 1:00:22, set by Kenya’s Duncan Kibet in 2006, and 1:09:17, established by Silvia Skortsova of Russia in 2006.

The eighth Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, October 6, 2013.

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