In a bit of serendipitous fate, the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and Half Marathon has been selected to host the USATF Masters Half Marathon National Championships, and Meb Keflezighi will make his masters debut at the May 31 event.
Keflezighi, the former New York City and Boston Marathon champion, plus the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist, turned 40 on May 5.
“I was debating whether I should pace the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon like I did last year or race it,” says Keflezighi, who finished eighth at the Boston Marathon last month in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 42 seconds. “Since my recovery from the Boston Marathon has gone well, I’ve decided to race.”
With excellent weather conditions, an anticipated elite field, plus history on its side, it figures the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon will yield fast times for the elite masters. In 2013 the race produced the fastest half marathon ever on U.S. soil when Kenya’s Bernard Koech won in 58 minutes, 41 seconds.
American runners alone boast a crop of Olympic medalists who have become masters in the past year—Keflezighi, Bernard Legat, Deena Kastor and Jen Rhines among them.
“I think the USATF liked the opportunity to take their championships to the biggest stage possible,” says Tracy Sundlun, senior vice president and co-founder of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.
Adds Don Lein, the USATF Masters Long Distance Running Chair, “San Diego is always a great venue for a race. You don’t have to worry about the weather and the race itself is always professionally run.”
Says Sundlun, “We know the USATF is interested in putting their championships where their runners want to go, and San Diego fits that bill. It’s a great race with a fast course in a great city.”
The Masters Half Marathon National Championships will offer $10,000 in prize money. Making the race more fascinating, the event will be age-graded (or adjusted), meaning an older runner with a slower time may still finish ahead of a younger athlete with a faster time.
The half marathon, featuring a predominantly flat and rolling course, begins at Balboa Park, stretches east to Normal Heights and finishes next to PETCO Park. The majority of the race unfolds in scenic Balboa Park.
This year marks the 18th anniversary of the race that kicked off the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. For the first time the weekend will also feature a Saturday 5K. American rock band O.A.R. will headline the Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert Series at Petco Park
As for turning 40 and competing, Keflezighi says, “I am looking forward to my first competition as a masters athlete. I am so fortunate to run my first race as a masters athlete in my hometown of San Diego.”