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Flanagan Flies To Victory In Miami Beach

Bairu wins men's race at Dodge Latin Music Miami Beach Half Marathon.

Shalane Flanagan breaks the tape in 1:09:58 to dominate the women's race. Photo: Lester Cacho/Competitor

Bairu wins men’s race at Dodge Latin Music Miami Beach Half Marathon.

MIAMI BEACH — Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan ran 1 hour, 9 minutes and 58 seconds to set a new Florida state record and record the fastest women’s half-marathon time in 2011 for an American this morning under warm, breezy conditions at the inaugural Dodge Latin Music Miami Beach Half Marathon.

Flanagan, 30, the bronze medalist at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, came to Miami Beach with her Oregon track club teammates to prepare for next month’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston. With no regard for the competition or the conditions, Flanagan ran a 5:05 opening mile to distance herself from the rest of the field, eventually finishing fourth overall.

Photo Gallery: Elites Turn Up The Heat In Miami Beach

“We are still doing a lot of work. Today was a turning point towards the peak of my marathon training and we are heading in the right direction. I’m going to take a confidence boost from this experience today. I’m excited to get out there and run the full thing,” said Flanagan, looking toward next month’s marathon trials. “This is my first race in Miami and there was a lot of flavor and excitement. It was a nice break from Oregon to come down and get some sunshine, enjoy the music and get some running in.”

Flanagan’s new teammate, Kara Goucher, came to Miami Beach with a goal time of 73 minutes from her new coach, Jerry Schumacher. Goucher executed her plan to near perfection, finishing second with a time of 1:12:59–her first race since suffering a hip injury at this past summer’s world track & field championships. Lisa Uhl, who is also part of Flanagan and Goucher’s Oregon Track Club training group, finished third in 1:15:24.

Photo Gallery: Dodge Latin Music Miami Beach Half Marathon

“This was a rough year for me with a lot of big changes and a lot of heartache. It wasn’t easy to do what I did but I know in the long run it was the best decision for myself and my family, but I’m looking forward now,” said Goucher, on recovering from injury and switching coaches. “I’ve got my sights set on the Olympic Trials and a fresh start in 2012. I feel really good. It’s not my fastest half marathon ever, but it’s given me the most confidence I’ve ever had going into a marathon, so I feel really good about it.”

Eventual race winner Simon Bairu strings out the pack early on in the race. Photo: Lester Cacho/Competitor

In the men’s race, Canada’s Simon Bairu won with a time of 1:05:38. Reigning U.S. cross country champion Brent Vaughn finished second with a time of 1:05:41, with teammate Tim Nelson coming across in third in 1:07:44.

The lead men approached the first mile in 4:46, separating themselves from the rest of the pack with California’s Christian Hesch, a sub-4:00 miler. A late arrival and lack of warmup forced Hesch to drop out at 5K, and the Oregon Track Club trio were unchallenged the rest of the way. Nelson began to fall off the pace during the eighth mile, leaving just Vaughn and Bairu. The duo ran together until the final mile when Bairu surged to take home the 3-second win.

“I may have under estimated the course, but today was a pace that I’ll probably want to run at Houston. Leading from the gun and to be able to do that on my own in this condition gives me confidence for Houston,” said Bairu, a collegiate All-American at Wisconsin who will try for the Canadian Olympic qualifier at the Houston Marathon, which takes place the day after the U.S. Trials. “The record high for Houston in mid-January is 80 degrees; we consciously came here to get experience in hot, humid conditions and it was great preparation. This was my first time in Miami and I’m a Heat fan. I loved being out here and definitely want to come back when I’m not training.”

Former Missouri State University basketball star Jackie Stiles finished seventh in the women’s half marathon with a time of 1:24:20. Stiles, who was drafted 4th overall in the 2001 WNBA draft and was later voted Rookie of the year, is the women’s all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division 1 basketball history with 3,393 points and hopes to someday qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

“I have so much respect for these endurance athletes and what they put themselves through, because every single time I push myself to the limit of almost being sick and you never feel like that after a basketball game,” said Stiles. “After going through 13 surgeries during my basketball career, I never thought I’d get the chance to have this kind of competition again. Just getting to do these Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events are so much fun and giving me the competitive void I’ve missed for so many years.”

Despite the record-setting performances and notable big-name runners, nobody stole the show in Miami Beach like rapper Pitbull, who performed a Latin mashup of his chart-topping hits to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd on the beach. It was perhaps the most blockbuster finish line concert in the 14-year-history of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and a fitting end to the 2011 tour.