Stars Ready To Rumble In New Orleans

Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan, right, shown here leading the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, will tuneup for April's Boston Marathon in New Orleans. Photo: Kurt Hoy/Competitor

A loaded women’s field features Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Meseret Defar and others.

NEW ORLEANS – A city with a world-class reputation for hosting marquee sporting events, New Orleans will soon showcase the most high-profile road race to take place in the U.S. this year with the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon & Half Marathon on Sunday, February 24.

With double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah headlining the men’s race, a loaded women’s half-marathon field is anchored by two of the biggest superstars in U.S. distance running: the fastest American female ever to run a half-marathon Kara Goucher (1:06:57) and her training partner Shalane Flanagan (1:08:37), the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000 meters, who recently won her sixth U.S. Cross Country title in St. Louis. The Portland-based duo will look to use the pancake flat New Orleans course as a tuneup for the Boston Marathon in April.

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“After coming off an injury this fall, I am looking forward to racing again in the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon,” said Goucher, who has run three of the top-5 fastest half-marathon times in U.S. history. “I have been training up in Colorado Springs and am ready to run my first race as I start the process of regaining my form leading into Boston. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series is the perfect place for me to get back into racing and I am excited to be the part of such a fun, fast course.”

Lined up to challenge the Oregon Track Club teammates are Ethiopian great Meseret Defar, the multiple world record-holder who captured gold in the 5,000m at last summer’s Olympic Games; Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere, who set a U.S. all-comers mark of 1:07:52 in winning the New Orleans race in 2010; Kenya’s Jemima Jelegat, runner-up at the 2012 Boston Marathon; Kenya’s Mary Ngugi, who set her half-marathon PR of 1:10:54 last year; and New Zealand’s Mary Davies, winner of the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a personal best time of 2:28:56, the fourth-fastest marathon time by a New Zealand woman.

“I had a great experience in my first half marathon when I raced at Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia in 2010. I was so happy to win and hoped to run there last year but a small injury stopped me from racing,” said Defar, who has won the Carlsbad 5000 three times. “I’m looking forward to coming to New Orleans. I’m told that the course is fast and flat which I hope will suit me. I had a wonderful year last year winning a gold medal at the Olympics and I’m very excited about 2013 and hope that this half-marathon gives me a great start to my racing schedule.”

Defar’s legendary finishing speed helped her become one of the best distance runners in history. In addition to winning 5,000m gold in London, she captured gold in the same event at the 2004 Games in Athens, and a bronze medal at Beijing in 2008. Defar has also set the world 5,000-meter record twice. In her half-marathon debut at Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia in 2010, Defar shattered what was then the U.S. all-comers record, running 1:07:45, the fastest time ever run by a woman on American soil for the distance. The current U.S. all-comers’ mark of 1:07:11, set by New Zealand’s Kim Smith last year, will be in jeopardy later this month.

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