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Kastor, Goucher Want Fast Times in Philly

The Americans will go against a strong international field at the Rock 'N' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

The Americans will go against a strong international field at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

PHILADELPHIA—Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher have won numerous races, accolades and honors, and own several records. They will try and add to their haul at the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Sept. 21.

The task will not be easy. The two American distance stars will face a star-studded field led by Ethiopia’s Worknesh Kidane and Aberu Kebede, Japan’s Tomomi Tanaka and Yuko Shimizu, and Kenya’s Caroline Rotich.

The Philadelphia course, which starts and finishes in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has produced five world records, five American records and the current men’s and women’s U.S. all-comers’ records. Those numbers could be increased this year.

The 41-year-old Kastor owns the American record for the half-marathon (1:07:34) set at London in 2006 and ran the fastest half marathon by an American in the U.S. (1:07:53) at Philadelphia in 2005. She also is the U.S. record holder for the marathon (2:19:36), set the U.S. Masters record for the half marathon (1:11:38) in New York earlier this year and established Masters records for 10 miles (55:13) and 20 kilometers (1:08.18) at Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas in March.

“Deena has a legitimate chance to beat every non-Master,” Tracy Sundlun, SVP and co-founder of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, said. “She’ll be going for another record in Philadelphia, chasing both her U.S. and hopefully the world Masters record.”

Kastor is overjoyed to return to Philadelphia.

“With a great summer of training … I am excited to return to Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia,” she said. “This race is home to my fastest half marathon on American soil so I look forward to using the great field assembled so that I can post a fast time.”

The 36-year-old Goucher also has had a storied career. She won a World Championship bronze medal at 10,000 meters in 2007, the first American medal ever in that event; finished third at the 2008 New York City Marathon, the first time in 14 years that an American placed in the top three in that race; and she was No. 1 in the U.S. in the half marathon in 2011.

Sundlun also is delighted to have Goucher in the race.

“She just lights up her fellow competitors and lights up the sport,” Sundlun said.

Goucher is equally excited about her return.

“After a year and a half of frustration and heartache, I am pleased to … return to competitive racing at Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly,” Goucher said. “I have wanted to run this race since I watched (husband) Adam (Goucher) get an Olympic Trials qualifier in 2011. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series has always been great to me and I can’t think of a better place to start my comeback.”

Goucher had been sidelined with a sacral stress fracture. In recent weeks she has shown marked improvement in her fitness and has adjusted her time goals accordingly.

“I’d love to say I’m going out there and running a super fast time, but I have to be realistic of where I’m at,” she recently told ESPN.com. “I think I’m in better shape than I thought I was. We originally had a goal of 71 or 72 minutes, but we’re predicting a little quicker now.”

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Goucher will have to be quick to overcome this powerful international field.

Kidane ran her personal best (1:07:36) at Philadelphia in 2011. She placed fourth at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games in the 10,000 and has won eight individual medals at the World Cross Country Championships, including one gold.

Kebede has a half-marathon best of 1:07:39 at the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships, where she won the bronze medal. She also has victories at the 2012 Berlin Marathon and 2013 Shanghai Marathon.

The Japanese duo also is very formidable. Tanaka has a PR of 1:09:24 set this year in Yamaguchi and she was fourth at Philadelphia last year. In addition, she set a marathon PR of 2:26:05 at Nagoya in March. Shimizu’s half-marathon PR is 1:09:32 last year at Marugame and she ran her marathon best this year at London.

Rotich established her half-marathon PR of 1:08:52 at New York in 2011. She also has won the 2013 Prague Marathon, was fourth at this year’s Tokyo Marathon and has run 2:23:22 in the marathon.

For the first time in 2014, race weekend in Philadelphia will include two days of running with a Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K event taking place on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday to create a running festival weekend. Both Kastor and Goucher will lead pace groups for the 3.1-mile event as a shakeout. Runners who complete Saturday’s 5K and Sunday’s half marathon will earn the special “Remix Challenge” medal for participating in both events.

Both events will begin at 8 a.m., starting and finishing at Eakins Oval directly in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The half marathon course remains flat and fast beginning on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, surrounded by stunning views of the city skyline, running through the historical Center City, past Independence Hall and along the scenic Schuylkill River. After crossing the finish line, runners will join family and friends to celebrate their accomplishment at the concert headlined by Rusted Root.