“My legs felt fine, but I was having a hard time keeping fluids down,” said Cox, who leading up to the race had his sights set on the world best. “It was tough out there, but the crowd support really helped, especially once I got going around the track. I was training such that even though it was an off day, I still got the American record.”
Cox overcame two bathroom breaks and an upset stomach, which plagued him over the first 20 miles of the race. His marathon split of 2:20:32 was his best time in the last two years and good for ninth place overall. His final lap on the track was clocked at 71 seconds.
“Marathon is still my sport and 2012 is my goal,” added Cox, referring to the Olympic Games in London. “But like when running 50 miles helped my performance in college track, these types of efforts will hopefully help my marathon running. I’d love to come back again and try to lower my time.”
Moses Kigen of Kenya won the men’s title in his marathon debut. His final sprint was good for a half second victory over Ethiopian Tekeste Kebede. Kigen, 25, won the race in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 36 seconds, the second-best time in the six year history of the event.
“It feels great to win in my first marathon,” said Kigan. “The course is fantastic, flat and very fast. The running conditions were perfect. I’m going to come back for the course record next year.”
Nearly the entire men’s field jockeyed for position over the first few miles of the race. A lead pack of seven runners then began to click off sub 5-minute miles. After the 10 mile mark, mile splits were 4:51, 4:53 and 4:44, with a half marathon split of 1:05:09. At the 25K mark, Kigan, Kebde, and fourth place finisher Keteme Nigusse of Ethiopia pulled away.
It was a three man race until the water station at mile 22, when the pace caught up to Nigusse and he fell back. Kigan and Kebede ran side-by-side until the final few meters. Kigen, who also finished third overall at the 2008 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in San Jose, received $20,000 for his first place effort. Defending Champion Michael Aish of New Zealand finished sixth overall.
In the women’s marathon, Olena Shurkhno of the Ukraine cruised to victory in 2:31:22, nearly three minutes ahead of Ethiopia’s Salomie Getnet. In addition to six European marathon titles, Shurkhno has previously won the 2007 Country Music Marathon and was also runner up in Nashville last year. Two time-defending champion Adanech Zekiros of Ethiopia dropped out with an injury before mile 19.
After leading five miles over the first half of the race, local Arizona resident Sally Meyerhoff finished in fifth place setting a new PR with a time of 2:35:52. Meyerhoff won additional prize money as the first American woman, Arizona resident and Maricopa County finisher.
“The conditions and the course were beautiful,” said Meyerhoff, who qualified for the Olympic Trails in Arizona last year. “The crowd support was great and it was really exciting to lead the race at the halfway point.”
Albuquerque resident Kris Houghton and Nickey Archer of the United Kingdom won their respective half marathons.
“It felt great to win, but I was hoping to go a little faster,” said Houghton, who finished with a time of 1:08:22. “I was out in the front all alone and a cramp in my hamstring also slowed me down a little.”
A record field turned out for the first race in the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. Annually the largest combined marathon and half marathon in the U.S., the sixth annual event was the largest in the history of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. Conditions on the flat Arizona course were almost ideal for marathon running, dawning sunny and with temperatures around 48 degrees and very little wind at the start line. But the story of the day was the 50K record.
“The logistics at the finish line worked out perfectly,” said Tracy Sundlun, Vice-President of the Competitor Group’s Elite Racing division. “He took the ultra out of the woods and put it into the mainstream, much like what Frank Shorter did with the marathon. Josh is a great representative of the sport and is showing us where it could go in the future.”
“Having run the marathon myself, I know that sluggish feeling after 26.2 miles is difficult on its own,” said Katie McGregor, U.S. distance runner who finished second at the 2008 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach and in the top 10 at the ING New York City Marathon.
McGregor, who was on hand to witness the 50K record attempt, added, “Josh is definitely leading the pack as more and more American distance runners try to push themselves to greater things.”
1. Moses Kigen, Kenya, 2:10:36
2. Tekeste Kebede, Ethiopia, 2:10:36
3. Tesfaye Bekele, Ethiopia, 2:14:17
4. Keteme Nigusse, Ethiopia, 2:14:26
5. Fred Mogaka, Kenya, 2:14:52
1. Olena Shurkhno, Ukraine, 2:31:22
2. Salomie Getnet, Ethiopia, 2:33:03
3. Asnakech Mengistu, Ethiopia, 2:33:32
4. Meseret Legesse, Ethiopia, 2:35:34
5. Sally Meyerhoff, USA, 2:35:52
About The P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona
As one of the nation’s premiere running events, the seventh annual P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon is set for January 17, 2010. Both the Marathon & ½ Marathon offer fast, flat and scenic courses that start in downtown Phoenix, run through Scottsdale and finish at Arizona State University in Tempe. Seventy live bands and 40 local high school cheer squads are staged approximately every mile along the 13.1-mile and 26.2-mile courses. The event concludes with an evening concert in Tempe. All participants receive a free concert ticket with their race entry.
A two-day Health & Fitness Expo kicks off race week at the Phoenix Convention Center. All participants visit the expo to pick up their race numbers and browse over 100 vendors from the running and fitness industry. To register for the race or for more information about the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon, visit www.RnRaz.com or call 800-311-1255.