The 40-year-old will be gunning for an American Masters record this weekend. 

NEW ORLEANS – One of the biggest stars in all of running, Deena Kastor, will compete in her first race of 2014 on Feb. 2 at the 5th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon & 1/2 Marathon. The U.S. record holder for the marathon and half-marathon will race in Louisiana’s largest city for the first time since her collegiate career at the University of Arkansas, where she was a four-time SEC Champion and an eight-time All-American.

“I look forward to opening my 2014 racing season with my running friends at Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans,” said Kastor, who is the only American woman to ever break 2:20 in the marathon. “New Orleans is one of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series’ premier events and I simply have to check this off my list. The course is fast and the atmosphere will be electric, so naturally it feels like a great way to set the tone for the year ahead.”

Kastor owns the two fastest half marathon performances by an American, a 1:07:34 at Berlin in 2006 and a 1:07:53 at Philadelphia in 2005. No other American woman has broken 1:08 on a record standard course. She also has the two fastest marathons by an American — a 2:19:36 at London in 2006 and a 2:21:16 at London in 2003.

A 25‐time U.S. champion, Kastor also holds American records for 8K, 12K, 10 miles and 20K, along with 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 then world’s best of 14:54, which still stands as the American record. She is 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).

RELATED: Kastor Finishes Ninth In Worlds Marathon

“There has never been a faster smile in the sport than Deena,” said Tracy Sundlun, SVP and co-founder of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. “One of the highlights of my career as an event organizer is that Deena Kastor has competed in and won more of our races than any of runner in history, setting three U.S. records and one world record at our events. She is one of the greatest runners in history and she may very well set an American Masters record this weekend. I hope the New Orleans community doesn’t miss this opportunity to watch one of the best there ever was.”

The current U.S. masters record for the half-marathon is 1:11:50, which was set in 2006 by Colleen De Reuck on the historically fast Philadelphia course. The New Orleans course is certainly as flat as Philadelphia and its history of record road performances puts the masters mark in jeopardy. The women’s event record is an exceptionally fast time of 1:07:36 set by New Zealand’s Kim Smith in 2011.

The race begins at 7 a.m. local time in downtown New Orleans on Poydras Street. With a fast course that starts below sea level, the route traverses beautiful St. Charles Avenue, running out and back before touring the historic French Quarter, Esplanade Avenue and iconic City Park. The event finishes on Roosevelt Mall behind the New Orleans Museum of Art, where the Marc Broussard & Rebirth Brass Band will headline the post-race party.