U.S. Olympic Medalists Keflezighi and Kastor Ready to Rock San Diego
· San Diego's Meb Keflezighi attempts to defend half-marathon title against fast Kenyan competition
· American record holder Deena Kastor to race world-class field in women's half-marathon
· Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon is the third major race of Half Marathon Grand Prix
SAN DIEGO, CA – May 30, 2013 – Two of America's all-time great distance runners, Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor will lead a field of more than 30,000 entrants at the 2013 Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ Marathon on Sunday, June 2.
In winning the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon each of the past two years, Keflezighi has encountered relatively little opposition. When he steps to the starting line this weekend, a powerful array of Kenyan talent will be waiting to beat the two-time defending champion. And Keflezighi knows it.
"Competitor Group has assembled an amazing field, which will make it very difficult for me to defend my title, but I love racing in my hometown," the 38-year-old Keflezighi said. "Winning the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half in 2011 was a turning point for me. I enjoyed running my home course, where I know every inch of the way, with family, friends and fans cheering me on. This is a fun race for me."
Two years ago, Keflezighi was expected to be severely challenged by Martin Lel, a Kenyan who had won the London Marathon three times (2005, 2007, 2008) and the New York City Marathon twice (2003, 2007). Keflezighi led all the way, pulling away after four miles when he ripped off a 4:24 burst between miles three and four. The ailing Lel was finished. He struggled for another two miles before dropping out and Keflezighi went on to win by nearly three minutes.
Last year, Keflezighi's toughest opposition was expected from fellow U.S. Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall. That didn't materialize either. Hall, competing with a leg injury, couldn't keep up with Keflezighi's pace and finished second, nearly 2 1-2 minutes back.
Winning for a third consecutive year won't be easy. The new Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon course is quite different, traversing neighborhoods where it never has been and gets close to where Keflezighi lives. That should inspire him tremendously against the fast Kenyan competition. The Kenyan favorites include Eliud Kipchoge, Stephen Kibet and Bernard Koech. Each of the Kenyan trifecta has run the half-marathon under one minute. Keflezighi's best is 1:01:00.
Kipchoge set his half-marathon best of 59.25 in his debut at Lille, France, in 2010. He then won the Hamburg Marathon in his marathon debut in 2:05:30, a course record, and opened this year by winning the Barcelona Half-Marathon in 1:00:04. He also has finished first, second and third at the Carlsbad 5000. Kibet won the City Pier City in the Netherlands last year clocking a PR of 58:54, 9th on the all-time list. Koech set his half-marathon PR of 59.10 last September at Lille and was recently selected to represent Kenya in the marathon at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow. moved into first place in the Men's open standings, ahead of Great Britain's double Olympic Champion Mo Farah .
Running her second race of the week at the age of 40, Kastor is shows no signs of slowing down. Memorial Day Monday she finished 4th in the competitive Boulder Boulder 10K in Colorado. Later this summer, she will represent the United States in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
"I am thrilled to return to San Diego and compete at this year's half-marathon," she said. "San Diego is the birthplace of the Rock 'n' Roll race series, so joining the thousands of runners at the starting line is a great way to honor the event."
Kastor owns the two fastest half-marathon performances by an American with 1:07:34 at Berlin in 2006 and 1:07:53 at Philadelphia in 2005. No other American has broken 1:08 on a certified course. She also has the two fastest marathons by an American women, 2:19:36 at London in 2006 and 2:21:16 at London in 2003.
Kastor also holds American records for 8K, 12k, 10 miles and 20k, and owns numerous other distinctions. She was the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon. She was the U.S. 10k and 15k champion four times each. She won the 2005 Chicago Marathon. She won the Carlsbad 5000 in 2002, setting a world best of 14:54, now the American record. She was a two-time World Cross Country silver medalist, and she was the 2001 U.S. Marathon champion with the then fastest American debut (2:26:58).
Of all the races she's run, the Rock 'n' Roll series remains among her favorites. "I really love the Rock 'n' Roll events," she said. "The combination of music (at various points along the course) and running is fun. The Rock 'n' Roll half is a reward. I love this distance. It's a fun event to be a part of. In the marathon there are so many factors and attention to detail. (In the half) I feel I can run fast. I can be a little reckless and a lot more aggressive and not have to pay the price. The half doesn't catch up to you."
Matt Turnbull, the elite athlete manager for the Rock 'n' Roll series, calls Kastor "a master."
"She still wants to be competitive," he said. "She keeps training and still can be one of the best in the world. I will admit I don't think she can run 1:06 or 1:07, but she has run some half-marathons in 1:10 and 1:11.
Kastor will have to be very fast to beat an impressive field of international elites, which includes Kenya's Edna Kiplagat and Ethiopian Firehiwot Dado.
Kiplagat, 33, is the 2011 world marathon champion and won the Los Angeles and New York City Marathons in 2010. She also won this year's EDP Lisbon Half-Marathon and currently ranks second behind Mesert Defar in the Half Marathon Grand Prix. The 29-year-old Dado won the 2011 New York City Marathon 2:23:15 and the 2012 New York City Half-Marathon in a course record 1:08:35. Her other victories include the Rome City Marathon three straight times (2009-11), the 2010 Frankfurt Marathon and the 25k Fifth Third River Bank Run, where she broke Joan Benoit Samuelson's 24-year-old course record.
The San Diego race is the third of six major events of the 30-race Half Marathon Grand Prix, a two-year competition including all 2013 and 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathons. For a complete list of professional and age group Half Marathon Grand Prix standings, visit halfmarathongrandprix.com.