Luke Humphrey, Melissa White will be leading the charge.
Next Sunday nearly 32,000 runners will take to the streets of San Diego from Balboa Park to SeaWorld for the 14th annual Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ Marathon to Benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ®. Leading the charge of running Elvi, thousands of Team In Training participants and first time marathoners, will be a group of elite athletes from Michigan vying to be some of the first athletes across the finish line.
San Diego-native Desiree Davila’s scintillating performance in April’s Boston Marathon not only catapulted her into the distance running elite, it sent reverberations throughout her teammates at the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.
“When somebody has great success, you want to know the secret,” said Keith Hanson, co-founder and co-coach of her running club located in Rochester Hills, Mich. “They (the team’s other runners) feel they can achieve what she has done and now will try and do the same. Her teammates say ‘If I can stay with Desi …’ They say she’s great, she’s wonderful. But she’s just like us. ‘If she can do it, I can do it, too. So why not me?'”
What Davila did at Boston was sensational. She nearly became the first American women’s winner since Lisa Rainsberger in 1985, finishing only two seconds behind winner Caroline Kilel of Kenya in 2:22:38. That made Davila the third-fastest U.S. women’s marathoner in history, topped only by Deena Kastor and Joan Benoit Samuelson, both Olympic medalists.
“I felt I could run with anybody (then),” said Davila, who graduated from Hilltop High School in Chula Vista. “I thought I had a chance in the last couple of seconds, but I didn’t have anything left in my legs. Still, it was the most incredible experience in my running career.”
“Desiree has drawn a lot of attention to the program,” Hanson said. “It’s great to see her get that notoriety.”
Davila’s time at Boston was nearly four minutes faster than her previous best of 2:26:20, finishing fourth at last year’s Chicago Marathon. Improvement like that is what her Hansons-Brooks Distance Project teammates will be looking to emulate at the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, the group’s first marathon since Boston.
Five runners – two men and three women – will participate in the marathon, and one will compete in the half-marathon. The women’s contingent includes Melissa White, 30, of Naples, N.Y.; Emily Mortensen, 28, of Craig, Colo.; and Lavenna Mullenbach, 23, of Georgetown, Texas.
“White is running better than ever,” Hanson said. “I think she can run under 2:31. Mortensen, I think can run a qualifier for the (U.S. Olympic) trials (next January in Houston). And Mullenbach hopes to run under 2:40.”
Those times would not compare to Davila’s, but they would represent progress, and that’s what Hanson, 46, and his brother, Kevin, 50, also co-founder and co-coach of the club, are looking for.
“Desiree had a fantastic race (at Boston),” Keith Hanson said. “It was the first opportunity she had to make a go of it at that time. She competed for the win and fell just short. It showed that she can compete at a high level in the marathon. She’s only 27, so she’s relatively young in the sport. She’s gotten a lot of positive attention from it on radio and TV, especially in Detroit. She’s also gotten a lot of attention from the national media.”
Representing Hansons-Brooks ODP in the men’s race at San Diego will be Luke Humphrey, 30, of Sidney, Mich., and Sage Canaday, 25, of Sheridan, Ore. The half-marathoner is Drew Polley, 25, of Port Orchard, Wash.
“Humphrey is ready to run a PR under 2:13,” said Hanson. “Canaday is fit and ready to run under 2:15, and Polley hopes to go under 1:05.”
Marathon weekend will kick off with a Health & Fitness Expo presented by Power Balance at the San Diego Convention Center. Davila, who will be making her first public appearance in her hometown since Boston, will be on-hand at the Dodge Expo Booth to autograph posters on Friday, June 3 from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 4 from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
The marathon and half marathon start at 6:15am on Sunday, June 5. The marathon route begins at 6th Ave. and Quince St, running through Balboa Park, downtown San Diego, PETCO Park, with a bayfront finish adjacent to SeaWorld. Course changes will alleviate crowding, heighten the scenic views along the way and highlight spectator-heavy areas. Event weekend concludes with a finish line festival and post race concert headlined by Nada Surf.