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Incredible Field Assembled For NYRR’s Mini 10K

Deena Kastor makes her post-pregnancy comeback.

Deena Kastor is one of the many world-class women in next week's Mini 10K. Photo:

Deena Kastor makes her post-pregnancy comeback.

By David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission

NEW YORK (02-Jun) — The New York Road Runners have decided to celebrate the gala 40th running of the NYRR Mini 10-K in high style.  Race director Mary Wittenberg has assembled an international field of superstars for the June 11 race so strong that it could pass for a World Championships final, and perhaps even an Olympic final.

She did it, at least in part, to honor the memory of Grete Waitz, the Norwegian running icon who died after a long struggle with cancer on April 19.  Waitz, a five-time Mini champion, did more than any other woman to establish through the Mini that women could be serious competitors over longer distances.  The Road Runners are dedicating this year’s race to Waitz who was  just 57 when she died.

“This will be one of the strongest women’s fields at any race this year, and fittingly so, as a tribute to Grete and her legacy at the Mini’s 40th running,” Wittenberg said through a statement.

With 11 Olympians (including two medallists), 11 women with global or continental championships medals (including six gold medallists), and a total of 14 women who have broken 32 minutes for 10 kilometers on either the track or road (including five who have gone sub-31:00), the field boasts a rare depth of talent seen in an American road race.  But the marquis match-up should be the reigning world 10,000m and Mini champion Linet Masai of Kenya against the reigning World Marathon Majors champion Lidiya Shobukhova of Russia.  Both women said they are up to the challenge.

“I am looking forward to defending my title in the New York Mini Marathon,” said Masai, 21, referring to the race by its original name when it was founded in 1972.  “I really enjoyed the race last year.  To run with so many other women in such a historic race is very special.  I expect a strong line-up and a tough race, but I am well prepared and will try to improve my time from last year (30:48).”

Shobukhova, who rarely races anymore outside of the World Marathon Majors events, said she was motivated by the challenge, and was excited to compete in such a prestigious race.  “I’m honored to be invited by New York Road Runners to compete in New York City Mini 10-K, which is absolutely an incredible race,” said Shobukhova, who has run 30:29.36 for 10,000m.  “This race is being known by it’s superb strongest elite field, and it’s a great opportunity for me to compete with the greatest athletes in the world of our times.  On the other hand it’s the biggest challenge for me as a marathon runner to compete with a highly respected world champion on that distance, Linet Masai.”  She continued: “But I like challenges.”

The race will also present a special challenge for USA marathon record holder Deena Kastor.   The 38 year-old veteran, who won the Olympic bronze medal in the marathon in Athens in 2004, will be using the Mini as her comeback race after giving birth to daughter, Piper, last February.  Although not back to the level of fitness which brought her a Mini victory in 2004, Kastor sees the Mini as a great opportunity to get her competitive juices flowing again and to test her fitness.

“I am so excited to make my post-pregnancy racing debut at this year’s New York Mini,” Kastor said in prepared remarks.  “This race is a perfect fit to celebrate women and running, so it’s a great pleasure to return to the racing scene in New York City.  After months of not being able to run while pregnant, it has been an exhilarating two and a half months of running again. Although I’m far from the fitness that I had when I won the race in 2004, I deeply look forward to being part of this year’s line-up.”

The field is so deep that any of a dozen other women could clinch the victory after running the famous Columbus Circle to Central park course:

. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya): The 2010 ING New York City Marathon champion has run 31:18 on the road.

. Lornah Kiplagat (Netherlands): The four-time world champion has won the Mini four times.

. Kim Smith (New Zealand): The Kiwi speedster holds the New Zealand record of 30:35.54 for 10,000m.

. Jo Pavey (Great Britain): The 2006 Commonwealth Games 1500m silver medalist holds two British indoor records.

. Emily Chebet (Kenya): The 2010 World Cross Country champion finished second at last year’s Mini.

. Yoshimi Ozaki (Japan): The 2009 World Championships silver medalist in the marathon makes her Mini debut.

. Belainesh Gebre (Ethiopia): The Ethiopian road racer won eight road races last year, including the Honolulu Marathon.

. Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia): The 2011 Carlsbad 5000m champion has a 10,000m personal best of 31:06.93.

. Anna Incerti (Italy): The 2010 European Championships silver medalist in the marathon makes her Mini debut.

. Misiker Mekonnin Demissie (Ethiopia): The 2010 Honda LA Marathon runner-up won the 2010 Bloomsday 12-K.

. Eloise Wellings (Australia): The 2003 World University Games 5000m gold medalist just set a 10,000m PB of 31:41.31.

. Yuri Kano (Japan): The 2010 Nagoya Marathon champion makes her fifth Mini appearance.

The race also boasts a solid supporting cast of North Americans:

. Magdalena Lewy Boulet (Oakland, Calif.): 2008 Olympian and 2009 USA Half-Marathon champion.

. Adriana Nelson (Fort Collins, Colo.): 2007 Bank of America Chicago Marathon runner-up.

. Molly Pritz (Rochester Hills, Mich.): 2011 USA 25-K champion.

. Dayna Pidhoresky (Tecumseh, Ont.): 2011 Around the Bay 30-K champion.

. Annie Bersagel (Stanford, Calif.): 2005 ACC Indoor 5000m champion.

. Sarah Porter (Bellingham, Wash.): 2011 NCAA D-II 10,000m champion.

Mini legends Anne Audain, one of only two athletes to beat Waitz at the Mini, and Kathrine Switzer, who helped found the race with Fred Lebow, will also take part.

“With Deena making her racing comeback and defending champion Linet and so many others in the mix, we know this race will truly be one of the best we’ve ever seen,” Wittenberg concluded.