A 1998 graduate of UCLA, Keflezighi moved with his family from Eritrea to San Diego as a young boy. He won the silver medal for the United States in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the first American man to medal in the event since Frank Shorter took the silver in 1976.
Keflezighi is the U.S. record holder for 10,000 meters at 27:13.98, but has had a frustrating year. He was a disappointed eighth in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last fall in New York City and came out of that race injured. He was slow to recover and struggled to a 13th place finish in the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Trials this summer. His entry into Falmouth, where he ran so well last year, suggests that he is back in form; victory here would help take the sting out of missing the Beijing Olympics.
ÛÏI had a great time in Falmouth last summer. Everyone treated me so well and so IÛªm excited to come back,Û said Keflezighi. ÛÏThings didnÛªt work out the way I wanted as far as the Olympics, but IÛªm feeling good now and looking forward to racing.Û
The Moroccan-born Khannouchi won Falmouth in 1997 and Û÷98. He became a U.S. citizen in 2000 and, along with Keflezighi, could become the first American since Mark Curp in 1988 to win the menÛªs race. The U.S. record holder in the marathon at 2:05:38, Khannouchi just missed making the 2008 U.S. Olympic team when he finished fourth in the marathon trials.
If not Khannouchi or Keflezighi, another U.S. entrant looking to break through at Falmouth is Adam Goucher, a two-time national champion at 5,000 meters. He was hoping to join his wife, Kara, who will run the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in Beijing. But Adam did not make the team and now turns his attention to the roads of Falmouth. Goucher wants to follow in the footsteps of his coach, Alberto Salazar, who won twice and set two course records in the 1980s.
Nicholas Kamakya of Kenya is returning after finishing a solid fourth last year. Earlier this summer he was second at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. Also entered is Luke Kipkosgei of Kenya. He was fifth at Falmouth in 2004 and ninth in Û÷05. He was a close second in the recent Steamboat Classic 4-miler in Peoria, Ill.
Two newcomers to Falmouth who could contend are Edward Muge of Kenya and Girma Tola of Ethiopia. Muge made his debut by winning his first road race last weekend at the Bix 7-miler in Davenport, Iowa. Tola, a 2000 Olympian at 10,000 meters, was third at the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, N. Y., and fifth last week at the New York City Half-Marathon.
Along with Keflezighi, Khannouchi and Goucher, other American men to watch include James Carney, seventh overall last year and the second U.S. finisher. He was sixth at the U.S. Olympic Trials at 10,000 meters and 14th in the Marathon Trials; Ed Moran, fourth in the 10,000 meters trials; Dan Browne, a 2004 Olympian who was sixth at this yearÛªs Marathon Trials and 14th at the 10,000; and Peter Gilmore, second U.S. finisher at Falmouth in 2006.
The womenÛªs field features former U.S. Olympians Kate OÛªNeill, Elva Dryer and Amy Rudolph, and two-time champion and four-time Olympian Colleen De Reuck.
OÛªNeill, who first ran Falmouth as a school girl from Milton, was a strong third last year. She was second in 2004, the same year she represented the U.S. in the 10,000 meters at the Athens Olympics.
Dryer was on the 2004 and 2000 Olympic teams in the 10,000. She was third at Falmouth in 2004 and eighth in 2006. She competed in the 2008 U.S. Trials, but finished 15th in the 10,000.
Rudolph, a Providence College graduate, was an Olympian in 2000 and Û÷96, and is a former U.S. and NCAA champion in track and cross country. She was fifth in Falmouth in 2006.
De Reuck is a Falmouth favorite. She has won the open division twice and finished second four times. Now 44 and the mother of two, she has won the Falmouth masters division twice. De Reuck became a U.S. citizen in 2000 and has represented both her native South Africa and the U.S. in Olympic Games. Last week she finished fifth in the open division at the New York City Half-Marathon.
Two others who should be in the thick of things in the womenÛªs race are Kenyans Millicent Gathoni, who won this yearÛªs Green Bay Bellin 10K and the Bolder Boulder 10K, and Edith Masai, 41, a 2004 Olympian who won this yearÛªs Bix 7. Masai debuted on the roads at Bix and is one of the hottest runners in the U.S. She won the Kenyan 10,000 meter championship last month and is certainly not running like a 41-year-old.
The womenÛªs field also includes Olga Romanova of Russia, who was fourth at Falmouth in 2005. She had the 2003 race practically won until she collapsed 200 yards from the finish line. Angelina Mutuku of Kenya, seventh last year, is also back. She was fourth in the Boilermaker 15K this year. Melissa Cook of Denton, Texas, ninth in Û÷07 and 10th at the U.S. Olympic 10,000 meter trials, is also a contender.
In the senior races, Olympic gold medalist and six-time Falmouth winner Joan Samuelson will race in the 50-and-over division, which she won last year, while three-time champion and twice Olympian Bill Rodgers will run for the first time in the over-60 category.
The wheelchair division will feature two-time defending champion Patrick Doak of Concord, Mass., and four-time winner Tony Nogueira of Glen Ridge, N.J.
The elite field will be competing for prize money totaling $90,300, with $10,000 to the open division winners and $5,000 each to the top U.S. man and woman.
This will be CIGNAÛªs third year as the race sponsor. The Philadelphia-based employee benefits company upgraded its commitment last year to become the title sponsor. Karen Rohan, president of CIGNA Group Insurance and CIGNA Specialty Products, will be running her 11th Falmouth.
ÛÏItÛªs a wonderful event and weÛªre proud to be part of it,Û said Rohan. ÛÏItÛªs amazing what the race directors (Kathy and Rich Sherman and Lucia and John Carroll), and all the volunteers do to make it such a wonderful day for everyone.Û