Kim Smith set a pending U.S. all-comer's record for the half marathon on Sunday in New Orleans.
Kim Smith set a pending U.S. all-comer's record for the half marathon on Sunday in New Orleans.

New Zealander runs 1:07:36 to eclipse Meseret Defar’s mark by 8 seconds.

Written by: Mario Fraioli

She downplayed her own expectations heading into this morning’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans, but after crossing the finish line victorious in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 36 seconds, not even Kim Smith herself could deny that she more than exceeded them.

Smith, who finished second here last year, said earlier this week that she was “feeling slightly tired coming into the race. I don’t think my PR will be in jeopardy this time out.” Fatigue mustn’t have been a factor, however, as she ran away from the rest of the women’s field early and was never challenged on her way to setting a 19-second personal best and pending U.S. all-comer’s record for the half marathon distance. She eclipsed Ethiopian Meseret Defar’s mark of 1:07:44 set at the ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon last September.

“My goal was to run a little bit slower because my coach didn’t want me to push it too hard,” said Smith, who finished sixth overall. “But I felt good out there. I’m training for the Boston Marathon so I’m in pretty heavy training at the moment so I didn’t think I would run this fast. I’m pretty happy after the heavy training week to run like that.”

Molly Pritz of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in Rochester, Michigan finished second in 1:11:05, taking a minute and nine seconds off her previous personal best. Woynishet Gima Tafa of Ethiopia was third in 1:12:08.

The men’s race was a much tighter affair as former University of Arkansas standout Josphat Boit of Kenya broke the tape in 1:03:57, one second ahead of the hard-charging Luke Humphries from the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Humphries’ teammate, Tim Young, finished third in 1:04:22.

Boit, running his second half marathon, took off from the sound of the starter’s pistol and was joined by countryman Elkanah Kibet (4th, 1:04:24) through 10K, splitting 30:26. Humphries, meanwhile, bode his time in the chase pack for the first half of the race before surging to the lead at mile 8 (39:16) and turning it into a two-man contest between he and Boit. The duo battled all the way to the finish at Roosevelt Mall, with Boit ultimately eeking out one-second win.

“That was a surprise,” Boit said of Humphries taking the lead. “The race started from there. The win was the goal and the time will take care of itself.”

Jophat Boit snuck past Luke Humphries to win Sunday's half marathon in 1:03:57. Photo: ASI
Jophat Boit snuck past Luke Humphries to win Sunday's half marathon in 1:03:57. Photo: ASI

Humphries, whose main objective going into the race was to help teammates Young and Sage Canaday (5th, 1:04:32) stay on pace for a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time of under 1 hour and 5 minutes, did a commendable job fulfilling those duties on his way to a runner-up finish and a 15-second personal best.

“After 4 miles the gap just stayed the same so I thought ‘I’m just gonna go after it and try to get to them’,” said Humphries, who said he will take some time off after this race before gearing up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in June. “We kept rolling and got to 12 miles and kind of looked at each other like who’s going to make the first move and that was it.”

In the accompanying marathon, it was C. Fred Joslyn who dominated the race, crossing the finish line in 2:18:48 to win easily over second-place finisher Kevin Castille of Lafayette, Louisiana, who ran 2:26:16. Meyer Freidman was third in 2:27:55.

Joslyn was in a pack of three which included Castille and Seamus Nally through halfway in 1:09:03. The trio ran together through 18 miles when Joslyn was able to get some space heading up a slight rise coming out of an underpass. He ran solo the rest of the way to the finish line.

“It was a great race out there,” said Joslyn, who won his first marathon and qualified for next year’s Olympic Trials in the process. “I had a lot of fun. The three of us had a great pack and had a strong pace going.”

Joasia Zakrzewski won the women’s race in 2:47:24. Karen Lockyer (2:52:26) and Beth Woodward (3:02:55) rounded out the top-3.

Some 17,000 runners took part in the second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon & ½ Marathon benefiting the American Cancer Society. The event started on Tchoupitoulas Street and Euterpe Street, then wound through Uptown, the Garden District and the famous French Quarter before a scenic finish in City Park.