Farah, Defar Win Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon
By: Dan Cruz, Competitor Group
Farah claims British half-marathon record, Olympic stars break event records in route to victory; Pearl Jam Rock Star Mike McCready plays National Anthem and completes 13.1-mile race with former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason, raising money for Team Gleason
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Running competitively on the roads for the first time since winning two gold medals at the London Olympics last summer, Mo Farah (right, photo credit: Victah Sailer / PhotoRun.net) didn't have time to acknowledge all the well-wishers along the half-marathon route of Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon & ½ Marathon. Instead, he rewarded them with a thrilling one second victory and delighted spectators at the finish, waving a British flag and slapping high fives.
When all was said and done, Great Britain’s Farah won the men’s half-marathon title clocking 60 minutes, 59 seconds, setting a new British half-marathon record, and Ethiopian Meseret Defar took the women’s title, running 1:07:25. The times were impressive, as the top-2 men ran under the previous event record and the top-2 women both set personal bests.
"There were a lot of people shouting out, ‘Go Mo.’ It was good to get that support," said Farah, who added another national record, previously held by Nick Rose since 1985. “I was working pretty hard. It was an effort and I was really pushing it. It was definitely a fast course with good guys pushing the pace, and with about 200 meters left I just kicked it in."
Runner-up Gebre Gebremariam, a New York Marathon champion from Ethiopia, finished in 1:01:00, followed by Kenyans in 1:02:48 Cybrian Kotut, and Martin Lel, the former event record holder, who finished fourth in 1:04:02. The top American runner in the men’s race was Brett Gotcher, of Flagstaff, Ariz., who finished sixth in 1:05:12.
A former World Cross Country Champion, Gebremariam set the early pace as the five-man lead pack passed through the 10K mark in 28:39. Then the race quickly got down to two as Gebremariam and Farah started to break away, helped by a 4:26 5th mile. The two men were dead-even through 20K (57:54), with Farah edging out Gebremariam for a one-second win in the final sprint down Roosevelt Mall in City Park.
“I was pleased,” said Farah's American coach Alberto Salazar. “We are really in a period with a lot of strength based training. He did the Birmingham 3K just as a warm up race for (New Orleans) so he had done something competitive for this race. He’s in good shape, his base shape is as good as the other years. Not in the same speed shape, but we have a long time to go until the World Championships.”
The women’s race was not as close as the men’s, as Defar, the 2004 and 2012 Olympic champion at 5,000 meters, ran away from the field over the closing stages and won by 66 seconds over American marathoner Shalane Flanagan, who finished with a time of 1:08:31. Mary Nugugi of Kenya was third in 1:10:32 and Britain's Helen Clitheroe finished fourth in 1:11:46. U.S. Olympian Kara Goucher, who is returning from a heel injury, placed fifth in 1:11:49.
New Orleans was only Defar’s second half-marathon and she improved her time by 20 seconds from her debut in 2010.
“I feel good. I came into today wanting to run 1:06 something, but I ran my personal best and the event record so I’m happy with my result,” said Defar, who will return to training on the track for the upcoming Diamond League this year. “Because Shalane and the other runners have experience over the marathon distance and I don’t have much experience with the half-marathon, I wasn’t comfortable I was going to win until the very end. The course was flat and the crowd was cheering, and it was a very nice race today.”
The men’s marathon was won by a familiar face, as Meyer Friedman won the 26.2-mile race for the sixth time going back to the event’s original days as the Mardi Gras Marathon. Friedman finished with a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 43 seconds. New Zealand native Karen Lockyer, who lives in nearby Gonzales, Louisiana won the women’s marathon with a time of 2:52:23.
“I was hanging with a couple guys and then Peter Omae took it out and I just tried to keep him in sight. Fortunately he came back to me and faded more than I expected and on the final straightaway I managed to track him down, maybe 800 yards before the finish,” said Friedman, who won for the second consecutive year. “Certainly I’ve been fortunate and I enjoy the familiarity of the route so it’s comfortable for me. I know the course, I know the area, I’ve run thousands of miles uptown when I was at Tulane and it’s a really fun event.”
Drawing ongoing cheers from participants and spectators alike, former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, long beloved in the Crescent City since his days on the football field, was pushed in a wheelchair by his brother-in-law Vinnie Varisco. Diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at just 34-years-old, Steve founded Team Gleason to raise money and awareness for the incurable disease. Members of Team Gleason included Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, who performed the national anthem on guitar and ran the half-marathon.
Along the out and back of iconic St. Charles Avenue, Varisco recalled the support and cheers of “Who Dat!” “Go Steve!” and “No White Flags,” the slogan of Team Gleason. The duo completed the half in 1:43:31, while McCready came through in 2:13:59. Team Gleason raised more than $42,000 for the cause, with donations still being counted.
“It was nonstop. It brings a smile to him and it’s just a reaffirmation that the love that he has shown this city is being returned to him,” said Varisco.
Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon and Marathon
New Orleans, La., February 24, 2013
Half Marathon - Men
1. Mo Farah, 29, Great Britain, 1:00:59, $4,500*
2. Gebre Gebremariam, 28, Ethiopia, 1:01:00, $2,000
3. Cybrian Kotut, 21, Kenya, 1:02:48, $1,500
4. Martin Lel, 34, Kenya, 1:04:02, $1,000
5. McDonard Ondara, 28, Kenya, 1:04:03, $750
Half Marathon - Women
1. Meseret Defar, 29, Ethiopia, 1:07:25, $4,500*
2. Shalane Flanagan, 31, Portland, OR, 1:08:31, $2,500^
3. Mary Ngugi, 24, Kenya, 1:10:32, $1,500
4. Helen Clitheroe, 37, Great Britain, 1:11:46, $1,000
5. Kara Goucher, 34, Portland, OR, 1:11:49, $1,150^
Marathon - Men
1. Meyer Friedman, 33, San Diego, CA 2:28:43
2. Peter Omae, 34, Kenya, 2:29:35
3. Trevor Middleton, 26, New York, NY, 2:35:10
Marathon - Women
1. Karen Lockyer, 35, Gonzales, LA, 2:52:23
2. Charlotte Everhardt, 26, Metairie, LA, 2:53:33
3. Paige Longdon, 37, Bothell, WA, 2:58:03
For age group results, photos and more, visit www.Competitor.com