On February 24 New Orleans will welcome Olympic champions Meseret Defar and Mo Farah when they compete at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon.
Farah, who won the 5000m and 10,000m at the London 2012 Olympics, has recently returned from training in Kenya and is set to compete in Birmingham this weekend over 3000m – a race he’ll be using as an opportunity to sharpen up for New Orleans.
“I’m excited to be racing at my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans,” said Farah, who in his only previous attempt at the Half-marathon clocked the fastest time ever by a Briton with a time of 60:23. “I’ve heard great things about the races and understand that the course is fast and flat. I’m sure that the competition is going to be strong.”
A loaded women’s Half-marathon field is anchored by Meseret Defar, the multiple world record-holder who captured gold in the 5000m at last year’s London Olympics, regaining her title from 2004.
In her Half-marathon debut in Philadelphia in 2010, Defar shattered what was then the US all-comers record, running the fastest time (67:45) ever run by a woman on American soil for the distance.
“I had a great experience in my first Half-marathon when I raced at Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia in 2010. I was so happy to win and hoped to run there last year but a small injury stopped me from racing,” said Defar. “I’m looking forward to coming to New Orleans, I’m told that the course is fast and flat which I hope will suit me. I hope that this half-marathon gives me a great start to my racing schedule.”
Defar will be joined by two of the biggest superstars in US distance running – the fastest American woman ever to run a half-marathon Kara Goucher (66:57) and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist over 10,000m Shalane Flanagan. The training partners will look to use the flat New Orleans course as a spring board to the Boston Marathon in April.
“After coming off an injury this fall, I am looking forward to racing again in the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon,” said Goucher, who owns three of the five fastest Half-marathon times in US history. “I have been training up in Colorado Springs and am ready to run my first race as I start the process of regaining my form leading into Boston. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series is the perfect place for me to get back into racing and I am excited to be the part of such a fun, fast course.”
Also in the field will be former World 10,000m champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia, Boston Marathon runner-up Jemima Jelegat of Kenya, and New Zealand’s Mary Davies, winner of the 2012 Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
The talented field and New Orleans’ history for record road performances puts in jeopardy the US all-comers’ mark of 1:07:11 set by New Zealand’s Kim Smith in 2012. In 2010, the two-time Chicago Marathon champion Adere ran what was then the fastest half-marathon ever on US soil (67:52) at the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans. Defar reduced that record to 67:45 then Smith bettered it the next year, running 1:07:36 before she lowered her mark to the current record.