Powerful International Field to challenge Mo Farah in Crescent City
Martin Lel, Gebre Gebremariam, Markos Geneti and Brett Gotcher add star power to Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon; Multiple world record-holder Mesert Defar will battle U.S. Olympic marathoners Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan in women’s event

New Orleans, LA. – February 19, 2013 – This Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon & ½ Marathon will showcase some of the biggest names in running. Double Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 meter gold medalist Mo Farah headlines men’s race, but he will face some very strong competition on the fast and flat course. 

Farah is coming into Sunday's race having run 7:42 to win over 3,000 meters Saturday at the British Grand Prix in Birmingham. His half-marathon personal best is 1:00:23, the fastest time ever run by a Briton. 

In order to get the victory in New Orleans, Farah will have to stave off a formidable field of contenders. Foremost among them is Kenyan Martin Lel, a three-time champion of the London Marathon and winner of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon in 2010. One of the world’s most dominant athletes over the marathon distance, Lel is a former World Half Marathon Champion who most recently won the Vodafone Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Half Marathon RTP last September in 1:01:28.

In addition to Lel, the star-studded men’s field includes Ethiopia’s Gebre Gebremariam, the 2010 ING New York City Marathon champion who finished second to Farah at the NYC Half in 2011; Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti, who won the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon and owns a marathon best of 2:04:54 finishing third in Dubai last year; Kenya’s Cybrian Kotut, a 21-year-old who finished fourth at Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon last year with a time of 1:02:25; and Scott Overall of Great Britain, who owns a half-marathon best of 1:01:25 and is prepping for the Virgin London Marathon in April.

“We’re delighted to be a part of Mo’s first race in the United States since the London Olympics,” said Matthew Turnbull, Elite Athlete Manager of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. “It’s certainly not going to be a parade for Mo, as we have some great talent lined up to take him on. He’s going to have to run his best to win and I personally can't wait to see the outcome.”

The top American contender in the men's field is 28-year-old Brett Gotcher of Flagstaff, Arizona. Gotcher owns a marathon PR of 2:10:36 from 2010, which is the fourth-fastest debut in U.S. history. Coached by Greg McMillan, the Team USA Arizona athlete won the 2009 U.S. 20K championships and will look to improve his half-marathon best (1:02:09) in New Orleans.

Other Americans in the field include 2011 winner Josphat Boit (1:03:56); two-time U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials QualifierMichael Reneau (1:03:38); Hansons-Brooks Distance Project teammates Luke Humphrey (1:03:57) and Robert Scribner(1:04:51); and C. Fred Joslyn (1:04:27), winner of the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon. 

The loaded women's field will be led by Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, one of the most decorated female runners of all time. Previously announced contenders also include American marathon stars Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan; former World Half Marathon champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia, and 2012 Boston Marathon runner-up Jemima Jelegat of Kenya.

“It's a great coup for Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans to have both Olympic 5000m champions racing,” added Turnbull. “Meseret proved what a true competitor she is claiming that second Olympic gold medal in London. I know she is looking forward to testing herself over the super fast course in New Orleans and I'm expecting something special from her this weekend. Of course she won't have things all her own way with USA's best out there challenging her as part of their build up to the Boston Marathon.”

New Orleans’ history for record road performances combined with its flat course and talented fields puts the race records in jeopardy. The men’s event record is 1:01:07, set by Lel in 2010, while the women’s mark is 1:07:36 set by New Zealand’s Kim Smith in 2011. The United States all-comers records are 58:46 for men and 1:07:11 for women, which were both run at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2011.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon & ½ Marathon begins at 7:00 am in downtown New Orleans on Poydras Street. With a fast course that starts below sea level, the route traverses beautiful St. Charles Avenue, running out and back before touring the historic French Quarter, Esplanade Avenue and iconic City Park. The races will once again finish on Roosevelt Mall behind the New Orleans Museum of Art, where the Dirty Dozen Brass Band will headline the post-race party.

Race weekend will kick off with an elite athlete press conference at 2:00pm on Friday, February 22 at the Health & Fitness Expo in the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. For more information about the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon & ½ Marathon, please visit RunRocknRoll.com