Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wanjiru And Kibet To Battle In New Orleans

Written By: Sean McKeon

The inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon will play host to one of the greatest half marathon fields ever assembled on American soil. The February 28th men’s race will include a dynamic Kenyan trio consisting of Sammy Wanjiru, Duncan Kibet and Martin Lel. Looking to spoil the Kenyan parade will be Moroccan great Abderrahim Goumri. To add to the excitement, the women’s field will feature a duel between Ethiopian Berhane Adere and Kenyan Salina Kosgei.

Sammy Wanjiru, 22, Kenya: The Japan-trained Wanjiru has lit the running world ablaze over the past two years. In 2008 he captured his first Olympic gold medal, battling the Beijing heat to an Olympic marathon record of 2:06:32. He followed up his Olympic victory by setting course records in 2009 at the London (2:05:10, PR) and Chicago (2:05:41) marathons. The three victories helped Wanjiru run away with the 2008-2009 World Marathon Majors championship. Wanjiru set the standing half marathon world record of 58:33 in 2007 in the City-Pier-City Loop in The Hague, The Netherlands. That record marked the third time he set the world record at the distance, having set his first world record at the age of 18.
Duncan Kibet, 31, Kenya: A bit of a late bloomer compared to Wanjiru, Kibet didn’t make a significant mark on the international racing scene until he set his still-standing personal best of 1:00:22 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 2006. Kibet ranks as the second-fastest marathoner in history, having set his personal best of 2:04:27 at the 2009 Rotterdam Marathon. A showdown was set up at the 2009 Berlin Marathon, between Kibet and world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, but the expected duel did not pan out. Geb won easily in 2:06:08 as Kibet failed to finish. Mardi Gras will mark Kibet’s return to the international stage.
Martin Lel, 31, Kenya: The 2003 world half marathon champion is considered one of the greatest road racers in history. Lel’s storied career includes three London Marathon titles, two New York City Marathon titles, and one London runner-up. Lel finished a disappointing fifth at the 2008 Beijing Games, having set a personal best of 2:05:15 in winning the London Marathon that spring. In 2009, Lel rebounded to set a personal best 59:56 in winning his third Lisbon Half Marathon.
Abderrahim Goumri, 33, Morocco: The Moroccan record holder for the marathon, Goumri has posted four runner-up performances at World Marathon Majors competitions. Goumri set his personal best of 2:05:30 at the 2008 London Marathon, where he took third. A well-tenured track runner, Goumri has run 12:50.25 for 5000m and 27:02.62 for 10,000m. His half marathon personal best of 1:01:19 came in 2001 at the Safi Half Marathon.

Salina Kosgei won the 2009 Boston Marathon. Photo:

Berhane Adere, 37, Ethiopia: A former world record holder over 3000m and 5000m indoors, Adere is one of the most accomplished female distance runners of all time. She has won world championships at 3000m, 10,000m and the half marathon, showing her vast range and ability. Her half-marathon personal best of 1:08:17 was set in 2001 at the world championships. In 2006 Adere won her first of two Chicago Marathons in a still personal best 2:20:42. She was fifth at the Chicago and London marathons in 2009. To kick off 2010, Adere had a dismal showing at the Zayed Half Marathon in January, placing 14th in 1:12:50, a mark she certainly hopes to improve upon in New Orleans.
Salina Kosgei, 33, Kenya: The heptathlete turned distance phenom is best known for her three-way duel at the 2009 Boston Marathon, a race she won by one second. The 2002 Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion has found more recent success at the longer distances on the road. She is the two-time Lisbon Half Marathon champion, setting her personal best of 1:07:52 there in 2006. Most recently, Kosgei recorded a fifth-place finish at the 2009 ING New York City Marathon. will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon and Half Marathon beginning Monday of race week.