Farah, Defar Set Records at Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans

Mo Farah celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans 1/2 Marathon on Sunday in 1:00:59. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Shalane Flanagan runs a personal best to finish second in women’s race. 

NEW ORLEANS — Double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah raced hard in the Big Easy on Sunday and gave another glimpse of what might lie ahead while winning the Rock ’n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon.

In his second attempt at racing 13.1 miles, Farah, a 29-year-old Somali-born Brit who lives in Portland, Ore., outkicked Ethiopian challenger Gebre Gebremariam to win in 1 hour, 59 seconds, breaking the course record and setting a new British national record in the process. Gebremariam, 28, the 2010 New York City Marathon champion, was clocked in 1:01:00. The top American runner in the men’s race was Brett Gotcher, of Flagstaff, Ariz., who finished sixth in 1:05:12.

Farah ran a 1:00:23 to win the 2011 NYC Half Marathon (where he also outkicked Gebremariam), but that time didn’t count as a UK national record because it’s not a record-eligible course.

“It would have been nice to run faster and break 60:00, but I was happy that I raced well and was able to use my track speed to win,” said Farah, who won both the 5,000 and 10,o00 meters at last summer’s London Olympics. “It’s a fast course, but it was a little breezy and we didn’t run fast enough early to really break 60:00. But it was a good race for just my second half-marathon.”

In all, more than 18,000 runners visited New Orleans to take part in a race that started in the French Quarter and finished in City Park. Although rain was expected, runners awoke to find cool, breezy and sunny weather for the 7 a.m. start.

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On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar was equally impressive. The 2004 and 2012 Olympic 5,000-meter champion ran stride for stride with two-time U.S. Olympian Shalane Flanagan early on but surged dramatically at mile 7 and ran away from the field. Defar, 29, who lives and trains in Addis Ababa, broke the finish line tape in a course-record 1:07:25, while Flanagan, 31, was 66 seconds back in second. Flanagan’s time was 1:08:31, a new PR and the third-fastest time ever run by an American.

Mary Ngugi of Kenya took third in 1:10:32, followed by Helen Clitheroe of Great Britain in 1:11:46. Rounding out the top five was Kara Goucher, who ran 1:11:49 as part of a comeback from an injury last fall.

Flanagan, who led the race early, had hoped to make a run at Deena Kastor’s American record of 1:07:34, but she said she decided to dial her pace back slightly after Defar took off to make sure she could finish strong. Flanagan is training for the Boston Marathon on April 15, while Defar was primed for this race. (Aside from Kastor’s 2006 record, the only other result faster than Flanagan’s time on Sunday is the 1:06:57 Goucher ran in 2007 on a non-record eligible course in Great Britain.)

“I think anytime you can run a personal best, that’s something special. You can’t take those for granted,” Flanagan said. “Knowing that I’m preparing for a marathon and ran a personal best today bodes well for what is in store in six weeks in Boston. I’m pumped. Today was a good day.”

After the race, Farah said his plans to move up to the marathon are still tentative, pending a few more trials at the half-marathon distance. His next one will come on April 21 when he runs the first half of the Virgin London Marathon. After that, Farah will return his focus to the track, where he hopes to run the 5,000m and 10,000m at the world championships later this summer in Russia. Farah’s first marathon is expected to come in 2014 in London.

“It’s all a learning curve to me,” said Farah, who briefly suffered from a side stitch at mile 9. “I’m not sure if it was because I drank too much water or what. I was never feeling too bad, but at the same time you really feel your effort later in the race. For sure, I have a lot to learn.”

In the marathon, San Diego’s Meyer Friedman was the overall winner in 2:28:43, beating Kenya’s Peter Omae (2:29:35) by almost a minute. Karen Lockyer, a local runner from Gonzales, won the women’s marathon in 2:53:23.

RESULTS

HALF-MARATHON

MEN

1. Mo Farah, 29, Portland, Ore, 1:00:59* (course record)
2. Gebre Gebremariam, 28, Ethiopia, 1:01:00
3. Cyrbian Kotut, 21, Kenya, 1:02:48
4. Martin Lel, 34, Kenya, 1:04:02
5. McDonald Ondara, 22, Kenya, 1:04:03

WOMEN

1. Meseret Defar, 29, Ethiopia, 1:07:25* (course record)
2. Shalane Flanagan, 31, Portland, Ore., 1:08:31
3. Mary Ngugi, 24, Kenya, 1:10:32
4. Helen Clitheroe, 37, Great Britain, 1:11:4
5. Kara Goucher, 34, Portland, Ore., 1:11:49

MARATHON

MEN

1. Meyer Friedman, 33, San Diego, CA, 2:28:43
2. Peter Omae, 34, Kenya, 2:29:35
3. Trevor Middleton, 26, New York, NY, 2:35:10
4. Ian Carr, 22, Kenner, LA, 2:35:12
5. Yang Bai, 41, Houston, TX, 2:37:39

WOMEN

1. Karen Lockyer, 35, Gonzales, LA, 2:52:23
2. Charlotte Everhardt, 26, Metarie, LA, 2:53:53
3. Paige Longdon, 37, Bothell, WA, 2:58:03
4. Laura Blaylock, 26, New Orleans, LA, 3;00:46
5. Katie Kramer, 33, Oklahoma City, OK, 3:05:07

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