Olympic champions Meseret Defar and Mo Farah gave another glimpse of their future potential on the roads when winning the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans on Sunday (24), both athletes breaking the course records.
Although rain was expected, athletes awoke to find cool, breezy and sunny weather for the 7am start. Defar, the 2004 and 2012 Olympic 5000m champion, ran stride for stride with USA’s Shalane Flanagan early on but surged dramatically at the seventh mile and ran away from the field.
Defar, competing in just her second ever Half-marathon, crossed the finish line in a course record of 67:25. Her time was just 14 seconds shy of the US all-comers record and makes her the fifth-fastest Ethiopian in history over the distance.
Flanagan finished more than a minute behind in a PB of 68:31, moving her one place higher on the US all-time list to third, ahead of Joan Benoit-Samuelson.
Mary Ngugi of Kenya took third in 70:32, followed by European indoor 3000m champion Helen Clitheroe of Great Britain in 71:46. Kara Goucher, who is returning from injury, ran 71:49 in fifth place.
Flanagan, who led the race early, had hoped to make a run at Deena Kastor’s American record of 1:07:34, but she said she decided to dial her pace back slightly after Defar took off to make sure she could finish strong.
Farah beats Gebremariam again
In his second attempt at racing 13.1 miles, Farah outkicked Ethiopian challenger Gebre Gebremariam to win in 60:59, breaking the course record and setting a British record in the process. Gebremariam, the 2010 New York City Marathon champion, was clocked in 61:00.
Farah ran a 60:23 to win the 2011 NYC Half Marathon – where he also outkicked Gebremariam – but that time didn’t count as a UK record because it’s not a record-eligible course.
“It would have been nice to run faster and break 60:00, but I was happy that I raced well and was able to use my track speed to win,” said Farah, winner of the 5000m and 10,000m at last year’s Olympics.
“It’s a fast course, but it was a little breezy and we didn’t run fast enough early to really break 60:00. But it was a good race for just my second Half-marathon.”
After the race, Farah said his plans to move up to the Marathon are still tentative, pending a few more trials at the Half-marathon distance. His next one will come on April 21 when he runs the first half of the Virgin London Marathon.
After that, Farah will return his focus to the track, where he hopes to run the 5000m and 10,000m at the World Championships later this summer in Moscow with his first marathon expected to come in 2014 in London.
“It’s all a learning curve to me,” said Farah, who briefly suffered from a side stitch at the ninth mile. “I’m not sure if it was because I drank too much water or what. I was never feeling too bad, but at the same time you really feel your effort later in the race. For sure, I have a lot to learn.”
Organisers for the IAAF
1 Mo Farah (GBR) 60:59 CR
2 Gebre Gebremariam (ETH) 61:00
3 Cyprian Kotut (KEN) 62:48
4 Martin Lel (KEN) 64:02
5 McDonald Ondara (KEN) 64:03
1 Meseret Defar (ETH) 67:25 CR
2 Shalane Flanagan (USA) 68:31
3 Mary Ngugi (KEN) 70:32
4 Helen Clitheroe (GBR) 71:46
5 Kara Goucher (USA) 71:49