Olympic gold medalist will headline half marathon field on September 5.

Written by: Mario Fraioli

Kenya’s Sammy Wanjiru, the gold medalist in the marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and former world-record holder in the half marathon, has announced he will run the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia on September 6th.

Sammy Wanjiru at February's Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon. Credit: PhotoRun.net
Sammy Wanjiru running at February's Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon. Credit: PhotoRun.net

“I’m very excited to be part of the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon,” Wanjiru said. “I know Martin Lel ran and won there as did Paul Tergat and I hope that I can add my name to that impressive list.”

This will not be Wanjiru’s first appearance at a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, as the former half marathon world-record holder (58:33) competed at the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans this past February, running 1:01:33 to finish second to countryman Martin Lel, who won the race in 1:01:07.

“I really enjoyed my first Rock ‘n’ Roll experience in New Orleans,” Wanjiru said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to racing after a frustrating few months.”

After his runner-up performance in New Orleans, Wanjiru’s dropped out of April’s London Marathon, citing a knee injury. It was an auspicious start to the year for the 23-year-old, who had a dynamite year in 2009 with two big-city marathon wins at London and Chicago, breaking the 2:06 barrier both times. He ran 2:05:10 to claim victory in London, and at Chicago, Wanjiru crossed the finish line in 2:05:41 —  a new course record and the fastest marathon ever run in the United States.

Wanjiru’s appearance in Virginia Beach only adds excitement to an event which already boasts a history of notable names who have claimed a spot on the winner’s podium, including Deena Kastor at the inaugural event in 2001 and Kenya’s Paul Tergat and Martin Lel in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The course record of 1:00:42 was set by their countryman, James Mwangi, in 2005.

“It’s fantastic to be able to mark the tenth anniversary by announcing that one of the biggest names in the sport will be competing on September 5,” said Elite Athlete Coordinator Matthew Turnbull. “We’ve had some great names here in the past and Olympic Champion Sammy Wanjiru’s participation reinforces the event’s stature throughout the world of road racing.” [sig:MarioFraioli]