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Kastor, Keflezighi Ready To Rock San Jose

Meb returns to try and win his third straight Dodge Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon.

Meb returns to try and win his third straight Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon.

Meb Keflezighi, shown here winning the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon earlier this year, is back to try and win a third straight title in San Jose.

San Jose, CA – The streets of San Jose will be alive with music and the excitement created by running fans watching two of America’s premier distance runners during Sunday’s Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon. American marathon record-holder and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor headlines the elite field, running her first half marathon since giving birth to her daughter, Piper, earlier this year.

“The Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon has really been my focus since coming back from maternity leave,” said Kastor, who trains with the Mammoth Track Club in California. “I am looking for my fitness to peak in January for the Olympic Trials, but this is a big stepping stone to get into longer marathon training. The Half marathon distance is my favorite distance to race and I am particularly excited race in San Jose. My Mammoth Track Club teammates Meb and Jen Rhines have both run well in San Jose, so I look forward to following in their footsteps.”

Kastor, 38, is a two-time Rock ‘n’ Roll champion winning the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon in 2001 and the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona in 2010. She made U.S. half-marathon history in 2005 in Philadelphia when she shattered Joan Benoit Samuelson’s long-standing U.S. record by 41 seconds with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes and 53 seconds. The three-time Olympian later bettered her time at Berlin in 2006 (1:07:34), and the record has stood since.

World-Class All Around: Exclusive Interview With Deena Kastor

“Right after the birth of Piper, people told me how fit I looked and the reality was that I had lost a lot of muscle and fitness, so I was merely skinny,” Kastor said of her maternity leave. “It has been fun to slowly climb back and feel my body adapt to the training. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m a much better athlete than I was 6 months ago.”

Kastor recently finished 2nd at the Great Cow Harbor 10K in 33:20. After her Olympic bronze medal, she became the first American woman to ever run a marathon under 2:20 when she won the 2006 Flora London Marathon in 2:19:36. In 2002, the Arkansas graduate set a then 5K world road record of 14:54 at the Carlsbad 5000.

“The Olympic Marathon Trials will be the most competitive trials we have ever seen on both men’s and women’s side, so I have to be on top of my game come January,” added Kastor. “Since I didn’t run for a majority of my pregnancy, I have had to be patient with my fitness returning. I look forward to testing my fitness in San Jose and possibly competing in another Rock n Roll half marathon before the end of the year. There are so many great cities in this series and I’m looking forward to racing another half again to measure my progress before Houston.”

She will be challenged by a strong local field with several women looking to run under the Olympic Trials qualifying standard of 1:15:00 or better. Heading the group is Bay Area Track Club member Clara Peterson, a five-time collegiate all-American at Duke where she placed second in the 10K at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor National Championships. Peterson, 27, ran her half-marathon PR this year at the Giants Race in San Francisco. Also in the field is University of California-Berkeley graduate Brooke Wells, who was the youngest qualifier for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at the age of 22.

Leading the men’s field is 36-year-old Meb Keflezighi, who has won an impressive 20 USA road, track and cross country titles during his illustrious career. Keflezighi, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen upon his graduation from UCLA in 1998, finished second in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, becoming the first U.S. medalist in the event since Frank Shorter won gold in 1972 and silver in 1976. After his performance this Sunday, Meb plans to run the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 6 and the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Jan. 14 in Houston.

Keflezighi will be joined by fellow American Sergio Reyes, who won the 2010 USATF National Marathon Championship at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota. A two-time NAIA and NCCAA All-American in cross country and the 2002 NAIA champion at Cedarville University in Ohio, Reyes ran personal best marks in the 5,000m (13:52.39), 10,000m (28:29.70), 10 miles (48:32) and marathon (2:14:02) in 2010. In September he represented the Team USA at the IAAF World Championships Marathon in Daegu, Korea, finishing 45th overall.

A sub-four minute miler, UC Berkley graduate Bolota Asmerom returns to race in San Jose where he set his half marathon personal best in 2006. Asmerom, a three-year letter winner in track for Cal, owns a track PR over 5,000m of 13:15. While still in college, his duel citizenship allowed him to represent Eritrea in the 5,000m at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

Potential challengers include Hansons-Brooks Distance Project teammates Drew Polley and Robert Scribner. Polley finished second to Keflezighi at the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in June. Scribner recently won the Bayshore 1/2 Marathon in a personal best 1:04:52, which qualified him for the 2012 Olympic Trials.

The Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon is also home to both of the current California state half-marathon records: 1:00:22 Duncan Kibet (KEN), 2006, and 1:09:17 Silvia Skortsova (RUS), 2006.

California’s fastest half marathon starts at 8:00 am on Sunday.