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Meseret Defar Returns To Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia

Loaded women's field highlights the 35th edition of the U.S.'s fastest half marathon.

Loaded women’s field highlights the 35th edition of the U.S.’s fastest half marathon. 

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

Yesterday, it was announced that five very fast women will be racing through the “City of Brotherly Love” on September 16 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, when the event’s 35th edition will be celebrated.  Among those toeing the starting line will be Olympic gold medalist Meseret Defar, World Marathon Majors winners Firehiwot Dado and Sharon Cherop, as well as a pair of strong Ethiopians in Mare Dibaba and Buzunesh Deba.

Defar, who captured gold in the 5,000m at last month’s London Olympics, returns to Philadelphia, where she won her debut half marathon in 2010, clocking 67:45.  Having raced well on the track this year at 5,000m, the two-time Olympic gold medalist looks to extend her luck on the roads.

Dado, champion of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, and Cherop, winner of last April’s Boston Marathon, will drop down from their usual 26.2-mile distance in hopes of securing the race title.  Dado is an excellent half marathoner, and set a personal best 1:08:35 when she won the NYC Half last March.

“I’m very excited about returning to the U.S. to race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon,” Dado said in a statement. “I have heard many great things about the event and have seen some great performances there over the years.  I will be returning to defend my New York Marathon title in November, so this race fits perfectly into my schedule.”

Cherop, who owns a bronze medal from the 2011 IAAF World Championships Marathon and a personal best of 1:07:08, shared Dado’s excitement.

“I’m happy to be returning to Philadelphia,” said the 28-year-old Kenyan.  “I ran there in 2007 and finished in fourth place. I’m looking forward to my first Rock ‘n’ Roll experience.  I’ve had a great couple of years, claiming bronze at the World Championships and then winning in the heat at the Boston Marathon. I’m excited to race again in America.”

Ethiopian half-marathon record holder Mare Dibaba (1:07:13), 23rd at last month’s Olympic Marathon, and compatriot Buzunesh Deba, the 2011 ING New York City Marathon runner-up to Dado, will also compete for the $9,500 first place prize.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon course is fast.  The USA all-comers record of 1:07:11 was set there in 2011 by New Zealand’s Kim Smith.  Smith, who got married last weekend, will be competing in the B.A.A. Half in Boston instead on Oct. 7, where she hopes to win the $100,000 B.A.A. Distance Medley crown.

“The race could be the fastest in the U.S. this year,” said Matt Turnbull elite athlete manager. “It’s tough to pick a winner from that group.”

The fastest time in the USA so far this year is 1:08:26 by Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira set in Houston last January.

Known as the Philadelphia Distance Run for 32 years, the event was rebranded in 2010 as part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.   The 2011 edition of the race recorded 16,476 finishers.