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U.S. Distance Runners Take To The Roads

Some of America's best distance runners will be hitting the roads in the next few months.

Some of America’s best distance runners will be hitting the roads in the next few months.

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

Kara Goucher, the 2007 IAAF World Championships 10,000m bronze medallist, will be running her first race this weekend since giving birth to son Colton last September. Goucher, 32, will be running the half-marathon at this Sunday’s 8th annual P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon in Phoenix.

“I’m really just taking it as an opportunity to go through my routine again and remember what it’s like,” Goucher said of Sunday’s race in a recent Brief Chat* at “I’m training a lot, but I’m exhausted. Up until a week and a half ago, I was nursing full-time around the clock, and I’m in the process of weaning right now, so I’m pretty fatigued, to be totally honest.”

Goucher is unbeaten at the half-marathon distance, and has a scorching 1:06:57 personal best from the slightly aided Great North Run in England in 2007. That was her first half-marathon, and she was the upset winner over Paula Radcliffe that day. Don’t expect that kind of time in Phoenix, however.

“I think I can run in the 5:30s (per mile),” she told, which translates to a 1:12:00 half-marathon. “I think that’s pretty manageable right now.”

Josh Cox, the USA 50-K record holder, will also be in Phoenix running a special 50-K held in conjunction with the marathon. In January, 2009 at the same event, he passed through the marathon finish line in 2:20:29, then continued to the track at a nearby stadium where he ran 20 laps to complete the 50 km distance in 2:47:17, bettering Alex Tilson’s American record of 2:51:48 which had stood since 2002. It was a painful experience for the now 35 year-old athlete.

“It was tough out there, but the crowd support really helped, especially once I got going around the track,” Cox told race organizers at the time. “I was training such that even though it was an off day, I still got the American record.”

Also this weekend, the fastest USA woman over the marathon distance during 2010, Desiree Davila, will be in action at the Naples Daily News Half-Marathon in Naples, Fla., according to both race organizers and her coach, Kevin Hanson. Davila, 27, finished fourth at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last October in 2:26:20, making her the fourth-fastest American of all time behind only Deena Kastor (2:19:36), Joan Samuelson (2:21:21) and Kara Goucher (2:25:53). Davila has a half-marathon personal best of 1:12:10 from Houston in 2008. Like Goucher, Davila is running the Boston Marathon on April 18.

Ryan Hall, the 2008 USA Olympic Trials Marathon champion, will kick-off his racing year in two weeks at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon on Saturday, Jan. 29. The competition, which will play host to the USA Half-Marathon Championships for men and women, will be Hall’s first since his announcement last September that he would scratch from the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and split with his longtime coach, Terrence Mahon. Hall is now coaching himself with input from several advisors. He was recently training in Flagstaff, Ariz., with wife Sara.

“With the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials just a year away now, I am excited to return to a very special place for me to check out the course that all U.S. marathoners will be racing on in an effort to make the Olympic Team,” Hall said this week through a news release. “Running the course of a marathon is always helpful, but racing the actual course before the marathon is an even bigger advantage. I’m excited to have this opportunity to begin my 2011 season in Houston as I build my momentum toward the Boston Marathon.”

Hall, 28, won the half-marathon in Houston in 2007, setting the still-standing USA half-marathon record of 59:43. Joining him in Houston, and also vying for the national title, will be Patrick Smyth (1:02:01 PB), Brent Vaughn (1:02:04), Abdi Abdirahman (1:00:29), and Mo Trafeh (1:00:39). On the women’s side, Serena Burla (1:10:08 PB), Jen Rhines (1:11:45), Magdalena Lewy Boulet (1:11:46), Katie McGregor (1:12:01), and Nan Kennard (1:08:38 20-K), lead the entry list.

“These are almost certainly the most competitive men’s and women’s fields that our invited athlete team has assembled since our hosting of the USA Half Marathon Championships began with the men in 2005 and the women in 2007,” said Brant Kotch, president and race director of the Houston Marathon Committee.

Dathan Ritzenhein, the 2008 USA cross country champion, revealed this week that he plans to run the Virgin London Marathon for the second time. He last competed in London in 2009, finishing 11th in a personal best 2:10:00. Ritzenhein’s last run at the 42.195-kilometer distance was at the ING New York City Marathon last November where he ran 2:12:33 for 8th place.

“I am delighted to run London,” Ritzenhein said through a news release. “When I raced in London two years ago I produced my best time so I hope the strength of this field can inspire me to run another PB this year. It will be a daunting task against such talented opponents, but I am looking forward to the challenge.

Ritzenhein will not be the only American in London. Jason Lehmkuhle, who finished fifth at the 2008 USA Olympic Trials Marathon in 2:12:54, will be running London for the first time. There other Americans –Mo Trafeh, Patrick Smyth and Stephan Shay– will all be making their marathon debuts in London. Michael Aish, who became an American citizen last year, is also competing in London, race director David Bedford said.