Trafeh, Nelson Win US Half Marathon Titles

By Charlie Mahler
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

MINN (22-Jun) — Mo Trafeh and Adriana Nelson won titles at the USA
Half-Marathon Championships here today with race plans that put
pressure on their challengers from the first strides of the contest.

now an eight-time USA champion, greeted the starting gun with a 4:20
opening mile that winnowed the field immediately, leaving only Meb
Keflezighi as a challenger after the 10-K mark. Nelson’s opening mile
of 5:15 made for a solitary journey from the start line on the shore of
Lake Superior to downtown Duluth and her first USA title.

who shook Keflezighi in the final 800-meters, clocked 1:01:17, setting
a new course record on Grandma’s Marathon’s Garry Bjorklund
Half-Marathon course and breaking Derese Deniboba‰Ûªs 1:02:19 mark from
2011. Nelson ran 1:11:19. Weather conditions were ideal for fast
racing: temperatures in the low fifties (about 11C) with cloudy skies
and tailwinds off Lake Superior.

“I took the lead from the gun;
I went out really fast; I pushed really hard,” Trafeh said. “I planned
to run a 4:20 first mile, and I was hoping that nobody follows, but
those guys were on my neck for the first 10-K.”

The guys
following the Moroccan-born Trafeh were a trio of fellow naturalized
American citizens: Olympic silver medalist Keflezighi, an Eritrean by
birth, USA 25-K runner-up Josphat Boit, and former University of Oregon
All-American Shadrack Biwott, both Kenyan-born. The quartet held
together for roughly six miles, splitting 28:33 for 10-K –faster than
Galen Rupp’s 10,000m winning time at the USA Outdoor Championships in
Des Moines Thursday night– after a bold 13:58 5-K.

As the race
progressed, the contest for the win whittled down to only Trafeh and
Keflezighi, with the 28-year-old leading the 2009 New York City
Marathon champion throughout.

“I never broke him until
800-meters to go,” said Trafeh, who set an American record for 25-K in
May. “He was behind me the whole time. I was surging 99% of the race
and he was right there on my heels, even when I was dropping really
fast surges. Meb was struggling behind me, to be honest.”

Keflezighi took the lead briefly in the thirteenth mile, surging three times trying to shake Trafeh, but without effect.

knew he was not going to beat me in a kick,” said Trafeh, who currently
holds USA titles at 10 miles, 25-K and the half marathon. “With 2-K to
go, I moved behind him, let him lead so I could relax. I recovered, and
with 600 to 800 to go I surged.”

Once Trafeh made his final bid, he separated himself from Keflezighi sharply and cruised to the finish.

In the women‰Ûªs race, Nelson built nearly a 50-second lead in her solitary race to the finish line.

“I just ran imagining that my husband or coach were there,” Nelson said.

11 miles, Nelson, who, as Adriana Pirtea, competed for UTEP as a
collegian, was nearly joined by Desiree Davila who closed to within
striking distance of the Romanian-born athlete who finished 18th at the
IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships last year.

“I did hear
the guys on the bike saying that Desi was five seconds behind,” Nelson
said. “We have a real hard course in Boulder where we train, I just
pictured myself following my husband on the bike and pushing the last
two miles as I always do.”

Unable to close the gap, Davila, the
2011 Boston Marathon runner-up, finished second in 1:11:26. Unheralded
Minnesotan Kelly Brinkman, a former Iowa State Cyclone, finished third
in 1:11:33, a huge personal best.

In the 37th annual Grandma’s
Marathon which was also held here today, Sarah Kiptoo ran 2:26:32 to
break Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova’s 2003 course record of 2:27:05.
Kiptoo’s was a brave solo effort that took her through 13.1 miles in
1:11:33: a split that would have placed her 5th in the USA Championship
pecking order.

“I felt very comfortable,” commented Kiptoo, who
won this year’s Cleveland Marathon in 2:33:42 only last month. “When I
cross the half-way, I could see I could make a good time. I say it was
too fast, but I say I don‰Ûªt care, go!”

Ahead of the race, the
Grandma‰Ûªs record buzz surrounded Ethiopia’s Bazu Worku, a 2:05:25
marathoner who was targeting Dick Beardsley‰Ûªs 1981 course record of
2:09:37. But Worku, who finished third in Berlin in 2010 and won this
year’s Chevron Houston Marathon, was content running in a lead pack
that crossed the half-way mat in 1:06:13.

“I wanted to separate
from the pack from the beginning, but the wind made that very
difficult,” Worku said through an interpreter. “So I decided to wait
until 30 kilometers and make my move.”

Worku’s move eventually
turned out to be a successful one, as the 22 year-old won the men’s
race in 2:11:14. His time ranks as the fifth-fastest in race history,
and netted him a check for $12,000.

The 2013 event marked the
final Grandma‰Ûªs Marathon under the direction of Executive Director
Scott Keenan, who has led the race since its inception. The Duluth
native announced his retirement from the event in the weeks leading up
to today’s event.

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