Ethiopians Rule The Roads At Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon

Birhane Dibaba sprints to victory in San Diego. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Deksisa, Dibaba capture titles; Keflezighi leads hundreds under 1:30 mark. 

On the 17th anniversary of the Suja Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday morning, at the 13.1-mile distance, youth was served—and it was a pair of Ethiopians who ruled the roads.

On the men’s side, 20-year-old Solomon Deksisa of Ethiopia broke away from Kenyan Geoffrey Bundi near Mile 11 and sped to victory, winning in 1 hour, 10 seconds. Bundi, 26, finished second in 1:00:26.

In the women’s race, three-time Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo, 33, of Kenya soaked up the pre-race hype. But on a humid morning with temperatures in the 60s, it was 20-year-old Ethiopian Birhane Dibaba stealing the show.

PHOTOS: Nearly 25,000 Runners Rock San Diego!

About 50 meters from the tape on the downhill finish, Dibaba pulled away to win in 1:09:34. Jeptoo settled for second in 1:09:37.

“The competition was very good,” Dibaba said. “It was an honor to compete with a great champion. Somebody’s got to win. I competed my best and was able to get the victory.”

In the men’s elite race, a pack of about 11 runners were bunched together through five miles. Gradually, the pack thinned out until near Mile 8, when Deksisa and Bundi separated themselves. Near Mile 11, on a tough uphill, Deksisa put on a move that Bundi couldn’t cover and ran uncontested all the way to the downtown finish line outside of PETCO Park.

Both runners set significant personal records. Bundi chopped nearly a minute off his best while Deksisa shaved over two minutes of his own half-marathon PR.

“It was a great race with very tough competition,” said Deksisa. “I am happy to run a fast time.”

RELATED: Ben Bruce Wins Big At Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego

Shadrack Biwott of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., was the top American finisher, placing 6th in 1:01:25. Biwott recently started training as a member of the Mammoth Track Club under coach Andrew Kastor. His teammate, Gabe Proctor, broke 62 minutes for the first time, finishing eighth in 1:01:40.

On the women’s side, Dibaba and Jeptoo ran virtually side by side from 5K until Dibaba made her move 50 meters from the finish.

“We ran together and we pushed each other,” Jeptoo said. “I’m happy for my friend. Today, for me, I only did OK. But I am very happy for her.”

Lindsey Scherf of Chapel Hill, N.C., was the top American finisher in the women’s half, taking fourth in 1:11:46, just one second off her personal best.

“I was shooting for 70:59, which is the IAAF gold label time,” Scherf said. “It’s hard to run for time unless you have people  running even pace, but I’m happy. I’ve had a rough last six weeks with low iron and missing a whole bunch of training the last five weeks.”

And while African runners dominated the half marathon, the most popular athlete on the roads was a San Diegan. Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, who attended junior high and high school near the course, lined up in the half marathon.

Meb—like Kobe and LeBron, he’s recognized simply by his first name—wasn’t racing. Instead, he paced runners trying to break 1 hour, 30 minutes. As he did at his emotional April performance in Boston when he became the first American male to win the historic Patriots Day race in 31 years, Meb didn’t disappoint in his hometown.

RELATED: The Mystique of Meb

Drafting off Keflezighi and motivated by his encouragement, numerous runners set half-marathon personal records.

Hayden Greenawalt, 23, of Oklahoma finished just under 1:28. Her previous half marathon best: 1:30:45. Cristen Patton, 32, of Temecula, Calif., woke up today with a 1:31 PR. Today’s time: 1:29.

“Running with Meb, it was indescribable,” Patton said. “Honestly, I could feel his energy. I could just feel his presence, his positive energy.”

“Today, it was about them,” said Keflezighi, referring to the runners he paced. “I would just tell them, ‘Stay with me, stay with me and you’ll break 1:30.” It was a blast. I had as much fun as they did.”

Scott Parson, 55, of San Jose, Calif., won the marathon wheelchair race in 1:45:43. It was Parson’s fifth marathon victory at Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego. Parson has been paralyzed since he was 31 when he was hurt in a construction accident.

“I might be getting old,” Parson joked, “but winning never gets old.”

Some 25,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes in both races hit the pavement, entertained by more than 40 bands and 20 cheerleading squads in the event that spawned the Rock ’n’ Roll series in 1998. Across the event’s 17-year history, runners have raised nearly $258 million for the race’s title charity, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon – Results

Full results will be at this link later today.

Marathon

Men
1. Ben Bruce, 31, Flagstaff, AZ, 2:23:50, $1,000
2. Jameson Mora, 30, Paso Robles, CA, 2:27:03, $750
3. Matt Lenehan, 22, Mountain View, CA, 2:38:27, $500

Women
1. Anna Corrigan, 23, Phoenix, AZ, 2:44:28, $1,000
2. Bonnie Axman, 29, San Diego, CA, 2:47:38, $750
3. Andrea Duke, 35, Schertz, TX, 2:57:55, $500

Half Marathon

Men
1. Solomon Deksisa, 20, Ethiopia, 1:00:12, $3,500
2. Geoffrey Bundi, 26, Kenya, 1:00:28, $2,000
3. Dickson Chumba, 27, Kenya, 1:00:39, $1,500
4. Samson Gebreyohannes, 22, Eritrea, 1:01:08, $1,000|
5. Tilahun Regassa, 24, Ethiopia, 1:01:11, $750

Women
1. Birhane Dibaba, 20, Ethiopia, 1:09:34, $3,500
2. Rita Jeptoo, 33, Kenya, 1:09:37, $2,000
3. Eri Hayakawa, 32, Japan, 1:11:37, $1,500
4. Lindsey Scherf, 27, Chapel Hill, NC, 1:11:46, $1,000 (+$200 US Citizen Bonus)
5. Amane Gobena, 31, Ethiopia, 1:12:20, $750

Marathon Wheelchairs
1. Scott Parson, 55, San Jose, CA, 1:45:43, $1,000
2. Jose Pulido, 33, Clarkesville, GA, 2:04:17, $500

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