Former PC Ace Kim Smith Runs 1:07:55 Half Marathon

Lel, Adere Win Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras 1/2
Ethiopian veteran runs fastest women’s time
ever on U.S. soil; Wachira, Barlow marathon winners

by Dan Cruz, Competitor Group

NEW ORLEANS – (February 28, 2010) – Former World
Half-Marathon champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia won the inaugural
Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras 1/2 Marathon
in New Orleans Sunday morning,
clocking the fastest time ever run by a woman on U.S. soil for 13.1 miles. Her
time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, 52 seconds bested the mark set by America’s Deena
at the 2005 Philadelphia Distance Run by one second.

Adere, 36, needed to be at her best to hold off New Zealand
Olympian Kim Smith, who finished a close second in 1:07:55, the third
fastest half-marathon ever run in the U.S. by a woman.

On the men’s side, three-time London Marathon champion
Martin Lel of Kenya outpaced his countryman and half-marathon world
record holder Sammy Wanjiru by 26 seconds, winning in 1:01:07.

The new Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon & å_ Marathon
courses were designed not only to provide a comprehensive tour of post-Katrina
New Orleans, but also to be fast. The elite performances validated the hype,
with five out of the top six women running personal records. Adere’s winning
time was a huge 25-second personal best for the two-time Chicago Marathon
champion. Smith’s runner-up time was also a New Zealand national record. Both of
their efforts were helped by near-perfect weather conditions, as the day dawned
sunny, dry and windless, with a starting line temperature in the low 50s.

Though the top men ran a little slower than might have been
expected, both Lel and Wanjiru have been logging heavy miles in training as each
prepares for the April 25th Virgin London Marathon, where Wanjiru is the
defending champion and course record holder. Nevertheless, after his win Lel
said, “I felt very comfortable the whole way. I had good legs today.”

“My expectation was to win,” added Lel. “I think the race
gives me good confidence on my preparation for the London Marathon. (New
Orleans) was a very interesting city and the people were cheering, it really
gave me a lot of energy.”

Smith, 28, who led the entire race until the final straight,
pushed a sub-1:08 pace from the start. She said that her performance gave her a
good confidence boost despite the narrow loss.

“I tried to break away early, and I got rid of everyone
except Berhane,” she said. “I knew she probably had more closing speed, so I did
everything I could to shake her.”

Smith blasted through the 10K split in 31:49, at a 67:20
half-marathon pace. But Adere was able to shadow the former Providence College
star the entire way until the two women turned onto the home stretch at City
Park. With only a quarter mile to go, it became an all-out sprint to the tape
that was not decided until the closing meters when Adere pushed ahead. An
exhausted Adere was barely able to raise her arms in celebration as she broke
the tape.

“I knew I would have my speed,” the winner said succinctly
after emerging from a medical tent.

The men’s race had more contenders through the majority of
the distance, but didn’t produce quite as scintillating a close. A select group
of five runners – Lel, Wanjiru, Ireland’s Martin Fagan, recent University
of Oregon graduate Shadrack Biwott and Kenyan McDonard Ondara
ran in tight formation through the first nine miles. The runners were packed so
closely together that eventual winner Lel tangled his feet with those of other
runners on several occasions. At 15K, reached in 43:42, Lel, 31, decided to take
control of the race and surged away from his rivals.

He cruised to the finish line a comfortable 26 seconds ahead
of Wanjiru, who is the reigning Olympic Marathon champion. Biwott, brother of
the world’s second fastest marathoner Duncan Kibet, finished third in his
half-marathon debut with a time 1:01:40, a major step onto the professional
stage for this former U.S. high school and collegiate star. Fagan took fourth
place and Ondara faded to fifth. The first U.S. finisher was Hansons-Brooks
Project member Mike Morgan, who set a big PR and finished sixth in
1:02:51. His performance qualified Morgan for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.

The concurrent marathon, which shared a starting line with
the half, lacked the international star power, but was stacked with
non-professional foreign and local talents. Of the top 3 men and women in the
marathon, three runners set PRs and three others missed their personal best by
less than a minute.

Leading the way to the finish was Kenyan Paul Wachira
in 2:22:31. Three-time defending race champion Meyer Friedman finished
second with a 2:25:18. The women’s winner was Australian Karen Barlow who
ran 2:46:06.

Not a new event, the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon
& 1/2 Marathon marked the evolution of the Mardi Gras Marathon, a New
Orleans tradition dating back 46 years. The New Orleans Track Club
partnered with the Competitor Group last year and incorporated the
popular rock ‘n’ roll format with a Mardi Gras twist. Thematic elements included
multiple jazz and blues bands performing on the course, Mardi Gras floats
throughout the first mile, and millions of colorful beads hanging from trees
along the course after this year’s festivities.

“This was a fantastic race, a bucket load of fun and very
well organized. I’m looking forward to next year being bigger and better,” said
New Orleans Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu, who ran the half-marathon.

The race drew approximately 16,000 entrants and featured 45
bands playing along the course. The second Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon
& å_ Marathon is set for Sunday, February 13, 2011.

Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras

New Orleans, LA, Sunday, February 28, 2010

1) Paul Wachira (KEN), 2:22:31, $1500
2) Meyer
Friedman (USA), 2:25:18, $1750*
3) Matthew Lavine (USA), 2:32:31, $850*

1) Karen Barlow (AUS), 2:46:06, $1500
2) Karen
Lockyer (USA), 2:58:24, $1750*
3) Marnie Staehly (USA), 2:25:37, $850*

Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras å_

1) Martin Lel (KEN), 1:01:07, $3500
2) Sammy
Wanjiru (KEN), 1:01:33, $2000
3) Shadrack Biwott (KEN), 1:01:40, $1500
Martin Fagan (IRL), 1:02:11, $1000
5) McDonard Ondara (KEN), 1:02:26,

1) Berhane Adere (ETH), 1:07:52#, $8500^
2) Kim
Smith (NZL), 1:07:55, $2000
3) Azalech Maresha (ETH), 1:09:46, $1500
Ilsa Paulson (USA / NY), 1:13:15, $1500*
5) Ramilya Burangulova, 48, RUS,
1:13:38, $1250+
*includes U.S.-Only prize money; #pending U.S. All-Comers
record (previous record, 1:07:53, Deena Kastor (USA), Jefferson Hospital
Philadelphia Distance Run, PA, 09/18/05; ^includes U.S. All-Comers record bonus;
+includes top Masters prize money

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