Deena Kastor Shatters World Masters Half-Marathon Record

The 41-year-old clocks 1:09:36 to finish third at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. 

PHILADELPHIA — She’s at an age where most pros hang up their racing flats, but nothing appears to be stopping American distance-running ace Deena Kastor. The 41-year-old Olympic bronze medalist and American marathon-record holder added another mark to her impressive and extensive resume: the Masters world record in the half marathon. Kastor, who lives and trains in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., clocked 1 hour, 9 minutes and 36 seconds to finish third at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Sunday morning. Her showing was a 20-second improvement over the previous world best set by Russia’s Irina Permitina in 2008. Along the way, Kastor also set three more Masters world records at 15K (49:03), 10 miles (52:41) and 20K (1:05:52). She also broke her own American Masters half-marathon record of 1:11:38.

Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede, the 2012 Berlin Marathon Champion, won the women’s race in 1:08:40. Kenya’s Caroline Rotich came in 41 seconds later at 1:09:21. Kastor said being able to keep an eye on both Kebede and Rotich throughout the race spurred her stay competitive during the miles where she had her doubts.

After the race, Kastor talked about the ups and downs she felt while she was competing on Sunday morning. “I had this annoying stitch in my side and wasn’t feeling great, but Michael McKeeman [the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon champion and a training partner of Kastor’s] who was running with me told me something that helped,” Kastor recalled. “He said, ‘You only have two more minutes to go, Deena. It’s just two minutes. You can do this.’ When I heard that, I thought about all the time I had put into training and realized that I can do anything in two minutes,” she said with a laugh.

Kastor admitted she had her doubts about pulling off the record while she was out on the course—especially at the 6-mile mark where the side pains started—but attributed the lessons she’s learned about persevering throughout her long career as instrumental in helping her get through the pain. “I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. Today’s race was a benchmark,” she said. “It was really humid out there and I didn’t feel great, but I ran fast so I’m thrilled. Rock ‘n’ Roll Races are like family to me and I’m pleased to break the record here in Philadelphia.”

Next up, Kastor will run the New York City Marathon in November and hasn’t ruled out a shot at the 2016 Olympic team in the marathon.

Karoki Wins Men’s Race in 59:22

While there were no records set in the men’s race, Bedan Karoki of Kenya came across the finish line in 59:22, which was a personal best for him. Prior to Philadelphia, the 24-year-old had run 59:58 to win the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon in March. Karoki ran relaxed throughout the race, and was able to shake off rival Cybrian Kotut near the 15K mark after the two had crossed the Falls Bridge that spans the Schuylkill River. “It was hard at that point,” Karoki recalled. “We had to run uphill and I was feeling tired. My legs were heavy.”

Karoki has been enjoying a solid year, setting personal bests on the tracks and roads. He said that if the conditions were better in Philadelphia, he would have taken down the course mark of 58:46 that belongs to Kenya’s Matthew Kisorio. “With a little more speedwork, I think I can run under 59 minutes,” he said. Kotut, who shared the lead with Kisorio and two other runners in the first half of the race, clocked 59:58 for second. Third place went to Geoffrey Bundi (1:01:25), who ran most of the race alone. The top American in Philadelphia was Gabe Proctor of Califorinia’s Mammoth Track Club. He finished ninth in 1:03:04.

Approximately 20,000 runners lined up in front of Philadelphia’s storied Art Museum on Sunday under foggy skies. Temperatures for the half marathon were warmer than the inaugural 5K yesterday and humidity was measured at an unseasonal 89 percent at the start. Participants and spectators alike gathered at the finish at Eakins Oval for the post-race party that featured the band Rusted Root.

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