Josh Cox running the 50km in Phoenix, Arizona, USA (ASI Photo) © Copyright
General News Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Cox’s 50km bid upstages marathon winners in Phoenix

Josh Cox had his heart set on breaking the World best for 50km. Instead, he had to settle for the best ever American mark.

Cox, competing as part of the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on Sunday (19), was timed in 2:47:17, smashing more than four minutes off the American best of 2:51:48, set by Alex Tilson on 11 Feb 2002, at Palo Alto, California. However, he fell nearly four minutes short of the World best of 2:43:38, by South Africa's Thompson Magwana on 4 Feb 1988.

"I'm happy I attained the American record, but I know I'm capable of running under 2:40," a somewhat disappointed Cox said.

Cox, 33, of El Cajon, California, said he was shooting for 2:39. He even had the splits he needed to run for that time written on his left wrist. On his right wrist were the times he required for the world best. Neither materialised.

One reason for his shortcoming might have been the illness he felt nearly the entire race.

"I felt good for about three of the 31 miles," Cox said. "I felt good at about mile 14 for about a mile and a half, then for the last two laps."

Cox began his quest over the Marathon course, in which he was timed in an unofficial 2:20:32, through the streets of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona, finishing the 42.195 kilometres on the campus of Arizona State University.  He then switched over to the school's Sun Angel Stadium, where he completed the final part of the race, nearly 19 laps.

His marathon time precluded any chance of shattering the world best but he was well within reach of the American mark. He churned out an average of 80-second laps, before finishing with a flourish, a 71-second lap.

"Today wasn't my day," a disappointed Cox said. "Some days you feel you can run through a wall. It was tough when I wasn't meeting my goals. I had an off day, but I still got the American record."

To celebrate the occasion, Cox was handed a bottle of beer by his wife Carrie (appropriately called Michelob Ultra) and doused himself with the suds.

Cox also wore the singlet No. 50 in his quest for the elusive 50K time.

He might have had a better chance at the mark if he had not taken ill often during the race. Cox said he threw up about six times along the marathon course and made two restroom stops, one at about the 20K mark, the other at the end of the marathon.

"I had a lot of stomach issues," he said. "I don't know why. Maybe I overcompensated for going the longer distance. Maybe I took too many fluids early in the race. I was throwing down fluids. But I didn't after 20 (miles)."

Kigen and Shurkhno take marathon victories

While Cox's bid for history was the highlight of the day, two new champons were crowned in the marathon.

Kenya's Moses Kigen, competing in his second marathon, won the men's title in 2:10:36, edging Ethiopia's Tekeste Kebede. Both had the same time, but Kigen beat Kebede by about a half-second with a stronger kick after the two were running side-by-side with about 100 meters remaining.

Defending champion Michael Aish of New Zealand finished sixth in 2:15:43.

Kigen's previous marathon resulted in a DNF, when he had to drop out of last year's Frankfurt Marathon near the 35K mark.

Because of his inexperience at the marathon distance, Kigen said, "I decided to stay back."
Actually, he didn't stay far back, remaining in the lead pack most of the race, but not always in front.

He said that early in the race he experienced some pain in his left side, so "I put my speed down. But I never really was in trouble," he added. "My mind was just on winning.  I always stayed  behind (toward the latter stages of the race) because I was the only Kenyan.

"Maybe next year I will get the course record," Kigen said, after missing the mark by three seconds.

In the women's competition, Ukraine's Olena Shurkhno, winner of six European marathons, ended the five-year domination by Ethiopians, winning in 2:31:22, seven seconds off the course record.

Ethiopia's Salomie Getnet, the secoond-place finisher in 2007 and 2008, again was the runner-up, in 2:33:03. Her countrywoman, Adanech Zekiros, the two-time defending champion, dropped out near the 19-mile mark with an apparent leg injury.

Bert Rosenthal for the IAAF

1. Moses Kigen, Kenya, 2:10:36
2. Tekeste Kebede, Ethiopia, 2:10:36
3. Tesfaye Bekele, Ethiopia, 2:14:17
4. Keteme Nigusse, Ethiopia, 2:14:26
5. Fred Mogaka, Kenya, 2:14:52

1. Olena Shurkhno, Ukraine, 2:31:22
2. Salomie Getnet, Ethiopia, 2:33:03
3. Asnakech Mengistu, Ethiopia, 2:33:32
4. Meseret Legesse, Ethiopia, 2:35:34
5. Sally Meyerhoff, USA, 2:35:52