SAN DIEGO – June 3, 2012 – The 15th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon was a star-studded success.
Meb Keflezighi, winner of the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, appears ready for the London Games. The 37-year-old ran smoothly and effortlessly on Sunday, winning the Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Half-Marathon in 1:03:11, his second consecutive victory in his adopted hometown. Ryan Hall, 29, the U.S. record-holder for the half-marathon at 59:43, struggled because of plantar faciaitis in his left foot, and finished a distant second in 1:05:39.
The women’s half-marathon was won by New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith in 1:08:37, a time that would have placed her seventh among the men.
Nixon Machichim of Kenya broke away with a little over two miles remaining and won the men’s Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in 2:10:03. Russia’s Alevtina Ivanova also made a late burst and won the women’s marathon in 2:27:44. The men’s and women’s marathon champions each earned $25,000.
More than 30,000 entrants from all 50 states and 40 countries were greeted with ideal running weather on Sunday morning. The men’s half-marathon was the keynote event, expected to be a tense duel between the two Olympians. But after about a mile, it was no contest. Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, pulled away and the suffering Hall could not keep up.
“I wanted to go out early because I know how the race will be in London,” Keflezighi said. “I tried to duplicate what it will be like there.”
The San Diego course is similar to London in that it has several turns and downhills.
“This was not a do-or-die race, but I’m a competitor,” Keflezighi said. “I’m not a guy who likes to sit back and waits to kick in the last mile.”
There was no need for a closing kick this time, as Keflezighi kept widening his lead as the race progressed. As the confident Keflezighi crossed the finish line, he was greeted by a large contingent of family and friends, including his father and one of his brothers, who lifted him onto their shoulders. Also along the course, there were groups of people urging him on, shouting “Olympics, Olympics, Olympics.”
“It’s always good to be back in San Diego,” said Keflezighi, who ran his first professional race here last year, after having grown up and matured in the Southern California city.
Keflezighi’s coach, Bob Larsen, generally was satisfied with his protégé’s performance. “He still has a lot of work to do,” Larsen said, “but so far so good.”
This was Keflezighi’s final race before the Olympics. From now on, it will be a lot of training. Keflezighi said his longest week of training this year consisted of 90 miles. Now, he wants to step it up to 100.
Hall, meanwhile, will be concentrating on improving his condition.
“I believe it’s going to get better before the Olympics,” he said of his painful injury. “Running with Meb always is an honor. He has the heart of a champion. Meb always inspires me to get through these tough moments.”
Hall admitted he made a mistake in this race. “It was too quick for me,” he said. “I shouldn’t have gone out that fast. The course beat me up. It wasn’t my best day. I was hurting the last part of the course. It felt like my foot was glued to the ground. I felt like a one-legged horse.”
“Now, I’ll just have to train for the Olympics,” he added.
In the women’s half-marathon, Smith, 30, ran unchallenged, winning by nearly seven minutes over runner-up Ariana Hilborn of Scottsdasle, Ariz. (1:15:32). Smith’s time fell a little short of the 1:07:11 she set at Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia last year, the fastest time ever run on American soil.
“This is a lot harder course than Philadelphia,” she said. “But it was a good, hard run. It was good preparation for the Olympics. It’s hard to push yourself when there are no other women around.”
The men’s marathon was a more competitive race, with about a half-dozen runners still in contention with just over two miles remaining. Then, Machichim took charge and won by 11 seconds over second-place finisher Desta Gebrehiwot of Ethiopia (2:10:14). Jeffrey Eggleston of Flagstaff, Ariz., was the best American, finishing eighth in 2:13:13.
“I was ready to go,” Machichim said. “I was expecting to run 2:09. But the last half of the course was hard. I don’t like the hills, I like to run on a straight course.”
Ivanova had not planned to run in San Diego, joining the women’s marathon field only about two weeks ago. Her original plan was to run in Ottawa on May 27, but that race fell through when she couldn’t obtain a Canadian visa (she has a U.S. visa). Meseret Legesse of Ethiopia finished second at 2:28:01, and Whitney Patton of San Marcos, Calif., was the top American, eighth at 2:49:50.
A translator said Ivanova, 37, ran well because she liked the cool conditions in San Diego on Sunday. “She said she was very happy because it is difficult for Russians to run in the heat,” the translator said.
Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego – Results
Place, Name, Age, Country, Time, Prize
1. Nixon Machichim, 29, Kenya, 2:10:03, $25,000
2. Desta Gebrehiwot, 23, Ethiopia, 2:10:14, $17,500
3. Tesfaye Sendeku, 28, Ethiopia, 2:11:18, $10,000
4. Weldon Kirui, 23, Kenya, 2:11:28, $7,500
5. Patrick Ivuti, 33, Kenya, 2:11:39, $5,000
1. Alevtina Ivanova, 37, Russia, 2:27:44, $25,000
2. Meseret Legesse, 24, Ethiopia, 2:28:01, $17,500
3. Woynishet Girma, 24, Ethiopia, 2:33:59, $10,000
4. Silvia Skvortsova, 37, Russia, 2:34:10, $7,500
5. Lyudmila Biktasheva, 37, Russia, 2:34:18, $5,000
1. Meb Keflezighi, 37, USA, 1:03:11
2. Ryan Hall, 29, USA, 1:05:39
3. Cesar Lizano, 30, Costa Rica, 1:07:28
1. Kim Smith, 30, New Zealand, 1:08:37
2. Ariana Hilborn, 31, USA, 1:15:32
3. Lindsay Tollefson,USA, 1:18:47