Fastest ever half marathon time on American soil set at the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras race
Posted Feb 28 2010 2:22pm
New Orleans, LA - February 28, 2010 – Former World Half Marathon Champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia won the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans Sunday, clocking the fastest time ever run by a woman on American soil for the distance. Her 1:07:52 time bested the mark set by America’s Deena Kastor at the 2005 Philadelphia Distance Run by a single second. Adere, 36, needed to be at her best to hold off New Zealand’s Kim Smith, who finished a close second in 1:07:55, the third fastest half marathon ever run in the U.S. On the men’s side, three-time London Marathon champion Martin Lel of Kenya outpaced his countryman and half marathon world record holder Sammy Wanjiru by 26 seconds, winning with a time of 1:01:07.
The new Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon & ½ Marathon courses were designed not only to provide a comprehensive tour of post-Katrina New Orleans, but also to be fast. The elite performances validated the hype, with five out of the top six women running personal records. Adere’s winning time was a huge 25-second personal best for the former two-time Chicago Marathon champion. Smith’s second-place time was a New Zealand national record. Both of their efforts were helped by near-perfect weather conditions, as the day dawned sunny, dry, and windless, with a starting line temperature in the low 50s.
Though the top men ran a little slower than might have been expected, both Lel and Wanjiru have been logging heavy miles in training as each prepares for the April 25th Virgin London Marathon, where Wanjiru is the defending champion and course record holder. Nevertheless, after his win Lel said, “I felt very comfortable the whole way. I had good legs today.”
“My expectation was to win,” added Lel. “I think the race gives me good confidence on my preparation for the London Marathon. (New Orleans) was a very interesting city and the people were cheering, it really gave me a lot of energy.”
Smith, who led the entire race until the final straight, pushed a sub 1:08 pace from the start. She said that her performance gave her a good confidence boost despite the narrow loss.
“I tried to break away early, and I got rid of everyone except Berhane,” she said. “I knew she probably had more closing speed, so I did everything I could to shake her.”
Smith blasted through the10 kilometer split in 31:49, at a 67:20 half marathon pace. But Adere was able to shadow the former Providence College star the entire way until the two women turned onto the home stretch at City Park. With only a quarter mile to go, it became an all-out sprint to the tape that was not decided until the closing meters when Adere pushed ahead. An exhausted Adere was barely able to raise her arms in celebration as she broke the tape.
“I knew I would have my speed,” she said succinctly after emerging from a medical tent.
The men’s race had more contenders through the majority of the distance, but didn’t produce quite as scintillating a close. A select group of five runners – Lel, Wanjiru, Ireland’s Martin Fagan, recent University of Oregon graduate Shadrack Biwott and Kenyan McDonard Ondara – ran in tight formation through the first nine miles. The runners were packed so closely together that eventual winner Lel tangled his feet with those of other runners on several occasions. At 15K, which was reached in 43:42, Lel decided to take control of the race and surged away from his rivals.
He cruised to the finish line a comfortable 26 seconds ahead of Wanjiru, who is the reigning Olympic Marathon gold medalist. Biwott, brother of the world’s second fastest marathoner Duncan Kibet, finished third in his half marathon debut with a time 1:01:40, a major step onto the professional stage for this former U.S. high school and collegiate star. Fagan took fourth place and Ondara faded to fifth. The first American finisher was Hansons-Brooks Project member Mike Morgan, who set a big PR and finished sixth with a time of 1:02:51. His performance qualified Morgan for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.
The concurrent marathon, which shared a starting line with the half, lacked the international star power, but was stacked with non-professional foreign and local talents. Of the top 3 men and women in the marathon, three runners set PR’s and three others missed their personal best by less than a minute.
Leading the way to the finish was Kenyan Paul Wachira in 2:22:31. Three-time defending champion Meyer Friedman finished second with a time of 2:25:18. The women’s winner was Australian Karen Barlow who ran 2:46:06.
Not a new event, the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon & 1/2 Marathon marked the evolution of the Mardi Gras Marathon, a New Orleans tradition dating back 46 years. The New Orleans Track Club partnered with the Competitor Group last year and incorporated the popular rock ‘n’ roll format with a Mardi Gras twist. Thematic elements included multiple jazz and blues bands performing on the course, Mardi Gras floats throughout the first mile, and millions of colorful beads hanging from trees along the course after this year’s festivities.
“This was a fantastic race, a bucket load of fun and very well organized. I’m looking forward to next year being bigger and better,” said New Orleans Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu, who ran the half marathon.
The race drew approximately 16,000 entrants, which featured 45 bands playing along the course. The second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon & ½ Marathon is set for Sunday, February 28, 2010.
Marathon Results Men 1. Paul Wachira, 32, Kenya, 2:22:31, $1,500 2. Meyer Friedman, 30, USA, 2:25:18, $1,750* 3. Matthew Lavine, 36, USA, 2:32:31, $850*
Women 1. Karen Barlow, 31, Australia, 2:46:06, $1,500 2. Karen Lockyer, 32, USA, 2:58:24, $1,750* 3. Marnie Staehly, 32, USA, 2:25:37, $850*