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Deep Fields Set To Rock Philadelphia

Defending champion Matthew Kisorio leads a loaded lineup.

Defending champion Matthew Kisorio leads a loaded lineup.

Can Matthew Kisorio break an hour this weekend in Philly? Photo:

Philadelphia, PA – The Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon has proudly become one of the world’s most prestigious road races, and rightfully so. Known as the Philadelphia Distance Run for 32 years, the rebranded event enters its second year as part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series on Sunday, September 18, 2011.

“Philadelphia is the premier half-marathon in the world. It is an event that has grown tremendously from a local half-marathon into the great American road race,” said Tracy Sundlun, SVP of Competitor Group and organizer of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, which will feature more than 26 events around the world in 2012. “The best athletes in the world compete. It is also perhaps the most beautiful half-marathon, running to City Hall, down Market Street, along the Schuylkill River and with a finish in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”

Related: Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Elite Fields

Over the years the race has attracted such world-class talent as Lasse Viren, Rod Dixon, Khalid Khannouchi, Mark Curp, Michael Musyoki, Steve Jones and Dionicio Ceron. On the women’s side, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Catherine Ndereba, Derartu Tulu, Meseret Defar, Deena Kastor, Ingrid Kristiansen and Colleen De Reuck are just some of the outstanding runners who have competed. In the 33-year history of the event, five world records and three American records have gone down.

“It’s got a history of being one of the fastest races out there,” said Matt Turnbull, elite athlete coordinator for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. “It has a rich history of attracting the best road racers in the world. It’s an easy sell.”

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Last year’s elite race was no exception. Both the men’s and women’s winners set course records. Twenty-one-year-old Matthew Kisorio of Kenya won the men’s race by more than a minute in 1 hour and 16 seconds–nine seconds under the previous course mark of 1:00:27 set by Khannouchi in 1997. In the women’s race, Defar, the sensational Ethiopian track champion, smashed the women’s mark with a 1:07:45 clocking—a U.S. all-comer’s record at the time and eight seconds under Kastor’s mark established in 2005. Second-place finisher Lineth Chepkirui of Kenya, who crossed the line only two seconds after Defar, was also under the old women’s record.

Kisorio, last year’s men’s champion, made his half-marathon debut at Philadelphia a year ago a stunning one. He is returning to defend his crown this year and will face formidable opposition once again. Kisorio, who set personal bests this year at 10,000 meters on the track and 10K and 25K on the roads, also improved his half-marathon best to 1:00:03 at Milan. He will get his most serious challenge from Deriba Merga of Ethiopia. Merga has a career best half marathon of 59:15, set in Delhi in 2008. Earlier this year he ran 59:24 in the United Arab Emirates. In 2009 he ran a world record of 41:29 for 15K during a half-marathon in the same year he won the Boston Marathon.

Other highly touted competitors are Sammy Kitwara of Kenya, Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco, along with Ethiopians Markos Geneti and Tilahun Regassa. Kitwara’s half-marathon best is 58:58 from Rotterdam in 2009. He has run 1:00:26 this year, and last year ran under 1:01 two times. Goumri, a 2:05:30 marathoner, set his half-marathon personal best in Philadelphia last year by finishing third in 1:01:33. Geneti won the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year–his debut at the distance–in 2:06:35. The 21-year-old Regassa has a 59:19 best from last year when he won the world’s richest half marathon in Abu Dhabi.

“Philadelphia deserves to have world-class times,” said Turnbull. “It’s surprising no one has broken one hour in the past, although seven men have been under 61 minutes. This could be the year. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Kim Smith leads a stacked women's field in Philadelphia this weekend. Photo:

In the women’s race, New Zealand’s Kim Smith, who broke Defar’s U.S. all-comers record with a 1:07:36 clocking at February’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans, is considered the favorite. Among those aligned against her will be Mizuho Nasukawa of Japan, Warknesh Kidane, Misiker Mekonnin and Bizunesh Deba of Ethiopia, and Benita Willis of Australia.

Nasukawa won the Tokyo Half Marathon in February. Kidane has a half-marathon best of 1:08:09, ran 2:26 at the Boston Marathon earlier this year and has won six medals at the World Cross Country Championships, including gold in 2003. Mekonnin won the 2010 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and this year finished second at the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon running 2:25:21. Deba, who lives in New York, ran a stunning 2:23:31 in winning the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in June, and Willis, who has a half-marathon PR of 1:07:55, won the World Cross Country Championships in 2004.

The race course has undergone some minor changes to accommodate this year’s record field of more than 21,000 entrants, some 3,000 participants larger than a year ago. The race gets underway on Sunday at 8:00 am on the Ben Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum, where it will also finish.

Click here to see the elite fields for Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

2011 Elite Fields

(Name, Age, Country, Bio)


Matthew Kisorio, 22, Kenya, Defending champion has since lowered his PR to 60:03 and won Berlin 25K in May

Sammy Kitwara, 24, Kenya, PR of 58:58 when winning the 2009 Rotterdam half-marathon

Deriba Merga, 26, Ethiopia, 2009 Boston Marathon Champion. PR of 59:15 and has run the 2nd fastest half in 2011

Tilahun Regassa, 21, Ethiopia, PR of 59:19 set last year when he won the world’s richest half marathon in Abu Dhabi

Peter Kamais, 34, Kenya, Won the NYC half-marathon last year in a personal best of 59:53.

Markos Geneti, 27, Ethiopia, Won his debut marathon in Los Angeles earlier this year in 2:06:35

Abderrahim Goumri, 35, Morocco, A 2:05:30 marathoner, set his PR in Philadelphia last year finishing 3rd in 61:33

Jason Hartmann, 30, USA, Finished 8th at Chicago marathon last year with a time of 2:11:06

James Mwangi, 27, Kenya, PR of 60:34, holds event record at Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

Shadrack Biwott, 26, Kenya, PR of 61:40 in 3rd behind Martin Lel & Sammy Wanjiru at ’10 Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras

McDonard Ondara, 27, Kenya, PR of 61:11 when winning the 2007 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon

Adam Goucher, 36, USA, Hoping to get the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time of 65 minutes

Julias Koskei, 29, Kenya, PR of 61:17 set in Philadelphia in 2004

Ridouane Harroufi, 30, Morocco, PR of 61:37. 3rd at Cherry Blossom and won Indianapolis Half Marathon this year

Bobby Curtis, 26, USA, Fastest American man over 10,000m this year running his debut half-marathon

Tyler McCandless, 24, USA, All-American for Penn State University in the 10,000m

Shawn Forrest, 28, Australia, PR of 61:25, won the 2011 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon

Weldon Kirui, 23, Kenya, PR of 61:10 and won the AFC Half marathon in 63:18 last month

Sage Canaday, 25, USA, Set PR of 64:32 finishing 5th at Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras, qualifying for Olympic Trials

Paul Hefferon, 25, USA, Set PR’s in all three races he’s taken part in this year. Has run 65:55 for the half-marathon

Matthew Eaton, 24, USA, Louisville grad has run 28:41.96 for 10,000m. Debut half-marathon

Abebe Yimer, 31, Ethiopia / USA, 2008 Las Vegas Marathon Champion

Gian-Paul Caccia, 25, USA, Has qualified for the Olympic Trials running a 1:04:46 at the NYC Half in March

Matthew Forys, 26, USA, Ran 1:04:56 at the NYC Half in March to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

C. Fred Joslyn, 27, USA, Winner of the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon

Chris Barnicle, 24, USA, Debut half-marathon. Has run 28:10 for 10,000m on the track

Cole Atkins, 25, USA, Set the fastest 8k on the roads by an American in 2010 (23:18 – HCA Richmond 8k)

Mohamed Khadraoui, 26, USA, Moe has a personal best of 28:33 for the 10k and 13:53 for 5k

Boaz Cheboiywo, 33, Kenya, PR of 61:38 set in Philadelphia in 2008

Carl Dusen, 29, USA, Graduate of Colombia University and 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier


Kim Smith, 29, New Zealand, PR of 1:07:36, fastest women ever to run a half-marathon in the U.S.

Bizunesh Deba, 24, Ethiopia, Won Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, fastest women’s marathon ever in California (2:23:31)

Werknesh Kidane, 29, Ethiopia, PR of 68:09 set at the Great North Run when finishing second in 2005.

Mizuho Nasukawa, 31, Japan, Winner of the Tokyo Half Marathon in February and won the 2009 Tokyo Marathon

Misiker Mekonnin, 25, Ethiopia, Finished 2nd at 2011 Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego running 2.25.21

Hellen Mugo, 26, Kenya, PR of 73:16 from winning the Ribbarijo Half Marathon earlier this year

Benita Willis, 32, Australia, PR of 67:55, national record holder for 3000, 5,000, 10,000, 5KM, 10KM and marathon

Fiona Docherty, 36, New Zealand, PR of 72:49 set earlier this year in New York

Diane Nukuri, 26, Burundi, PR of 74:20 set in Philadelphia last year. 4th at 2011 Los Angeles Marathon

Jane Kibii, 26, Kenya, PR of 72:26, recently finished 2nd at the 2011 Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half

Everlyne Lagat, 30, Kenya, PR of 71:29 set this year in Indianapolis, 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Champion

Adriana Nelson, 31, USA, PR of 69:59, finished 2nd at 2007 Chicago Marathon

Claire Hallissey, 28, Great Britain, PR of 72:02, won the 2011 XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Dot McMahan, 34, USA, Hansons-Brooks athlete finished third at Grandma’s Marathon earlier this year

Melissa White, 30, USA, Hansons-Brooks athlete has PR of 72:30 for the half-marathon

Mattie Suver, 34, USA, Hansons-Brooks athlete won 2011 Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon in June

Melissa Todd, 36, USA, Won the 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon

Catha Mullen, 26, USA, Ran 2:40 at Boston and 1:14 at the NYC Half in 2010

Jen Houck, 27, USA, Ran a 2:33 at Grandmas marathon and has a personal best of 1:14:40 in the half

Teresa McWalters, 27, USA, Stanford Graduate, Two-time NCAA West-Regional Champion, Six-time All-American