Friday, January 12, 2007

Half Marathon Championships

In third year for Houston to host the USA Men's Half-Marathon championships, directors scored a coup in getting a "big-name" runner in Meb Keflezighi.

Keflezighi, the silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics Marathon in Athens, will compete against the previous two winners in Brian Sell (2005) and Dan Browne (2004).

"This race is a benchmark for me," Keflezighi said. "It'll tell me where training is for the London Marathon in April. But it is for the national championship so I'll do whatever it takes to win."

Keflezighi is seeded second, behind Sell, while Browne is the 7th seed.

This year's field could be the strongest in the three years Houston has hosted the championships.

"With Meb, Dan and Ryan Shay (2006 US 20K champion), this field is way deeper than last year's," Sell said. "There are 10-15 guys that have a shot at it. Ryan's time in the 20K last year is equivalent to the low 61s for a half so I expect a time around there to win it."

Keflezighi also threw out the same number, and he has run a 1:01:28 in his only official half-marathon time to date.

"It depends on the weather, but with this field something in the 61s is likely," Keflezighi said.
Keflezighi's only half-marathon finish, in the New York City Half Marathon in Aug. 2006, was a second place behind Kenyan Thomas Nyariki (1:01:22).

Keflezighi's other half-marathon attempt was in October the Rock n' Roll Half in San Jose. He suffered a hamstring cramp heading into the 11th mile and decided to pull off the course at that point, saving himself for the Nov. 5 ING New York City Marathon. He was in third place at the time and gaining on second, having gone thru 10 miles at 46:45, one of the fastest times ever by an American for that distance.

Sell is coming back from a hamstring injury suffered in December.

"I was in Detroit and I was crossing a road and slipped on a icy patch and almost did the splits," Sell said. "The hamstring has felt fine the last week or so, but I'm a little bit behind."

In an email response earlier in the week, Browne said: "I'm excited and nervous because the competition is really looking strong. I feel that there are a lot of guys who are capable of winning it and I just hope to run my best on race day."
Meb's marathon experience:

Keflezighi plans to run the Flora London Marathon in April and his training is focused on that race. The marathon will be his eighth.

His silver medal in Athens came in his fourth marathon.

"Stefano Baldini won the gold and that was his 16th marathon," Keflezighi said. "I've been there now and I can take more risks in a race. I knew, during the race, that the US hadn't medaled since 1976 and I wanted to get that.

"The 2008 Olympics will be all about taking risks. In terms of time, my 2:09:53 is slow. I know what I'm capable of and I'm looking forward to London because it's a fast course."

Keflezighi says he's focused on getting better.

"I still believe my times can improve and I'm hungrier and more motivated than ever," Keflezighi said. "I'm trying to compete with the best in the world. I have that medal, but I want to bring another one."

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