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Amy Hastings, Ryan Hall Headline Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona

The Olympians will kick off an important 2015 season in the Valley of the Sun.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Ryan Hall, one of the world’s premier distance runners, and Arizona State University graduate Amy Hastings, an Olympic 10,000-meter runner, will make their 2015 racing debuts at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & ½ Marathon this weekend.

“We’re kicking off our 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll tour with an absolutely great group of national and world-class runners, both competing on Sunday, pacing on Saturday and truly taking our sport to the people,” said Tracy Sundlun, SVP of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. “Thirteen months from this weekend, we will be selecting our U.S. Olympic Marathon team for Rio 2016. It’s starting to get serious and the countdown gets underway in the Valley of the Sun.”

The 32-year-old Hall, the American record-holder in the half-marathon (59:43), will run that distance in training for the USATF Marathon Championships on March 15 in Los Angeles. Hall, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials champion and 2012 runner-up, will arrive in Arizona directly from Ethiopia where he has been training with some of the world’s best distance runners.

With a 2:04:58 marathon personal best, Hall is the marquee name in the field. Heading the formidable group of contenders is Canada’s Dylan Wykes, 31, of Vancouver, B.C. Wykes, also a 2012 Olympian, has a marathon PR of 2:10:47 and a half-marathon best of 1:02:14. They will be joined by Kenyan Benson Cheruiyot, 32, who owns a half-marathon PR of 1:02:51, and Ben Bruce, 32, of Flagstaff, Ariz., winner of five Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons last year, whose best half-marathon is 1:02:53.

The women’s half-marathon field also got a top attraction when Arizona State University graduate Amy Hastings, a 2012 Olympian at 10,000 meters, joined the field while currently training in Phoenix. Hastings, who will be 31 next Thursday, had a heart-breaking fourth-place finish at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She bounced back to win the 10,000 at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials and placed 11th at the London Games. Since then, her professional running career has been like a rollercoaster ride.

She had a poor showing at the 2013 New York City Marathon and withdrew from the 2014 Boston Marathon. Then Hastings rebounded with a top five showing as top American at last year’s Chicago Marathon in 2:27:03, exactly matching her PR, which she ran in her marathon debut at the Los Angeles Marathon in 2011.

RELATED: Running’s First Big Weekend of 2015

Like Hall, Hastings is using Sunday’s race for a marathon tune-up, as she’s entered to run Boston in April. Her competitors will include Megan Hogan, 26, of New York, winner of the 2014 NU Hartford half-marathon in a PR of 1:12:12; Natasha Wodak, 33, of Vancouver, the 2013 Canadian Cross Country champion whose half-marathon best is 1:14:07, and Michelle Meyer, 27, of San Francisco, a 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier with a half PR of 1:16:53.

Leading the men’s marathon contingent is former Tulane runner and defending event champion Solomon Kandie, 36, of Kenya, who has run 2:17:23. Joining him will be Peter Kemboi, 34, of Kenya, winner of the 2014 Fargo Marathon, with a PR of 2:19:26, and Roosevelt Cook, 35, of Oak Hills, Calif., who has been on the podium the past three years and owns a marathon best of 2:23:36. U.S. Olympic steeplechaser Donn Cabral will also toe the start line, pacing a teammate in the marathon.

The top three entrants in the women’s marathon field all are Americans: Zoila Gomez, 35, of Alamosa, Colo., a three-time U.S. team member for the World Marathon Championships with a 2:32:54 PR; Larisa Dannis, 27, of Corte Madera, Calif., an ultramarathoner, with a 2:44:14 PR at the 2014 Boston Marathon, and Colleen Tindall, 30, of Moorestown, N.J., who has run 2:46:04.

For the first time in 2015, race weekend will include two days of running with the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 5K event taking place on Saturday at Tempe Beach Park. All runners who participate in both Saturday and Sunday’s events will earn a special Remix Challenge medal to commemorate their accomplishment.  Taking the Remix Challenge in Arizona this weekend are American greats Steve Scott and Alan Webb; the event’s 2013 half-marathon champion Stephanie Rothstein Bruce; along with Sunday’s aforementioned competitors Hall, Wykes and Ben Bruce.

All of the elite runners will lead pace groups at Saturday’s 5K, which includes a post-race meet-and-greet opportunity for fans to get autographs and photos. Scott, who ran 137 sub-4 minute miles—more than anyone else in history—will also be pacing the 2 hour half-marathon group on Sunday, while Webb and Rothstein Bruce will be pacing the 10K to earn the coveted Remix Challenge medal.

”We’re thrilled so many iconic runners are coming to Phoenix to kick off their year at P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona,” added Sundlun. “To start Saturday’s 5K with the two men who have held the U.S. mile record over the past 35 years, plus two other legitimate Olympic team contenders Ben and Stephanie Bruce, joining Ryan Hall to take the Remix Challenge is going to be a wonderful way to launch the Remix Challenge in Arizona.”

The P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & ½ Marathon is returning for its 12th year, and will feature live bands and entertainment at each mile of a scenic course through Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. The race features a 26.2 marathon, 13.1 half marathon, 2-person relay, 10K, 5K and KiDS ROCK Arizona. More than 22,000 expected participants will finish at Tempe Beach Park, where The WallFlowers and OKGO will headline the free post-race concert.