Preview: Hall Looking For Success At Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego

Ryan Hall thinks he can pull off a fast time in San Diego this weekend. Photo: www.photorun.net

The American is part of a fast field that will take part in Sunday’s half marathon.

A year ago, Bernard Koech of Kenya ran the fastest half marathon time in the world for 2013 at the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon. Will that mark be bettered this year?

Considering the talent in this year’s elite field, Koech’s 58:41 performance—which is also the fastest half marathon time ever on U.S. soil—could be matched or beaten on Sunday.

Headlining the men’s field will be two-time Olympian Ryan Hall, who owns a 59:43 personal best and is the only American to break the one-hour barrier in the half marathon, and Dickson Chumba of Kenya, this year’s Tokyo Marathon champion.

Matt Turnbull, the event’s elite athlete manager, thinks Hall is ready for a big race and that Chumba can improve greatly on his personal best.

“Everyone in racing wants Hall to get back to his best,” Turnbull said of the injury-plagued runner, who began his comeback with a 20th-place finish at the Boston Marathon in April. Hall was the second American finisher at Monday’s BolderBOULDER 10K. “He wasn’t 100 percent going into Boston. Now, if he can run a good half marathon, he can build from there. He’s had a long-term foot issue that’s been plaguing him for the last few years. But things seem to be going well now. He’s healthy and feels he’s in shape to run well.”

In 2012, Hall finished second to San Diego-native Meb Keflezighi in his first Rock ‘n’ Roll appearance in America’s Finest City. That race seemed to fit perfectly into Hall’s preparations for the London Olympics, where he was forced to drop out near the 11-mile mark with a hamstring injury. In 2013, he was slated to run the Boston and New York City marathons, but withdrew from both because of injuries. Now, he feels ready to run well again.

“I ran San Diego in 2012. I did not have a great race there, but did have an incredible experience,” said Hall. “I loved the race organization. I used to live in San Diego and trained there. We just love the city. It’s not too far from Big Bear, so I’m racing it because I love the SoCal feel. I love the vibe. I love the course. I think I have the potential to run pretty well.”

RELATED: Hall On Injuries, Boston And More

Chumba, meanwhile, has become a world-class runner after once serving as the gardener for Kenyan Martin Lel, one of the world’s premier distance runners. In the past four years, Chumba has improved rapidly. In 2012, he ran his half marathon best of 61:34 in Den Haag and produced his marathon best of 2:05:42 at Tokyo in February.

“After a while, Lel persuaded him to join the running group,” said Turnbull. “Tokyo is not the quickest course, but San Diego is a great course. That will give him the opportunity to bring down his time.”

Other highly regarded entrants include Cybrian Kotut of Kenya, as well as Tilahun Regassa and Tsgabu Gebremariam of Ethiopia. Kotut, 22, is Lel’s younger brother and made his breakthrough at Philadelphia last year, finishing second in 59:59. Regassa ran the half marathon in 59:19 in 2010, the world junior record at the time. He was highly regarded going into Boston this year, but dropped out after 10 miles. Gebremariam, the younger brother of standout distance runner Gebre Gebremariam, will be making his U.S. half marathon debut. His half marathon PR is 61:28.

In the women’s race, three-time Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo was ticketed to face London Marathon champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya in a showdown on Sunday, but Kiplagat has scratched from the race.

RELATED: Jeptoo Repeats At Boston Marathon

Nevertheless, Jeptoo will still have some strong opposition, including Birhane Dibaba, a rising 20-year-old Ethiopian who finished a strong second in this year’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:22:30. Amone Golena, 31, from Ethiopia, is the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon champion with a half marathon best of 1:08:16. Eri Hayakawa, 32, and Yuko Watanbe, 26, of Japan, and Americans Lindsey Scherf, 27, who won the Publix Gasparilla Half Marathon this year and Sara Slattery, 32, a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Colorado, are also in the field.

“If people are in good shape, they can run fast over this course,” Turnbull added.

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