PHOENIX, AZ – One of the top U.S. marathon hopefuls for the 2012 London Olympics, Kara Goucher will make her return to road racing at the 8th annual P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon on Sunday, January 16. The 2007 World Championships bronze medalist, who will run the half-marathon here, has not raced competitively since running the marathon at the World Championships in August of 2009, taking time off in 2010 to give birth to her son Colt on Sept. 25.
“We couldn’t be more delighted that Kara decided to make her competitive return to road racing here in Arizona,” said Matt Turnbull, Elite Athlete Coordinator for the Competitor Group. “From Haile Gebrselassie’s half-marathon world record in 2006 to Deena Kastor’s sub-70 minute outing last year, we know this event can produce fast times and great performances.”
Unbeaten in her career at the half-marathon distance, Goucher captured her first title on the roads in spectacular fashion when she out-dueled marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, winning the Great North Run in 2007. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Colorado grad finished ninth in the 5000 meter and 10th in the 10,000 m. She was third at the 2008 ING New York City Marathon in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 53 seconds; the fastest marathon debut by a U.S. woman.
“I’m so excited to have my first race back be a part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series, it should be a lot of fun and the weather is supposed to be great,” said Goucher, 32, who will run the Boston Marathon in April. “As race day approaches, it’s exciting to remember what it’s like to do a warm-up and go to the start line. I’m looking forward to a family affair with Adam and Colt waiting for me at the finish line in Tempe.”
Goucher, whose half-marathon PR is 1:06:57, will be challenged by 30-year-old Madai Perez of Mexico, who owns a half-marathon personal best of 1:09:45 from New York in 2010. She has finished 11th and 15th at World Championship Marathons and placed 19th at the Beijing Olympic Marathon in 2008. Also on the starting line will be 2005 Twin Cities Marathon Champion Nicole Aish, who has a half-marathon personal best of 1:12:30.
The men’s half-marathon will feature a thrilling match-up featuring University of Arkansas graduates Alistair Cragg and Shaun Forest. A seven-time NCAA champion for the Razorbacks, Cragg has a half-marathon personal best of 1:01:58. The Irishman made his second Olympic 5000m final at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and now trains with Mammoth Track Club.
Forrest, who graduated in 2009, finished sixth in his professional road racing debut last summer at the Beach To Beacon 10K. It was a memorable day as the 27-year-old challenged the lead for more than half of the race, the only non-African able to handle the pace. He’ll look to improve on his personal best time of 1:02:44, from his debut half-marathon last fall at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia.
Leading the women’s marathon field is Arizona native Sally Meyerhoff, a two-time Olympic Trials Qualifier who trains in Tempe. The 2009 U.S. 25k National Champion has a marathon personal best of 2:35:49.
The men’s competition will be led by U.S. 50K record holder Josh Cox, who is returning to the Valley of the Sun in hopes of bettering his ultra mark. Cox set the American record (31.05 miles) with an official time of 2:47:17 and was named the USA Track & Field Athlete of the week in January 2009. His performance broke the previous American 50K record by four minutes and was the worlds fastest 50K time of the year in 2009.
Cox prepped for Arizona by winning the 2010 Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon on Dec. 5. He started slow and ran the last 13.1- miles hard to win in 2:25:06.
“My first order business is to better the American record, and the big goal obviously is to set a new world mark,” said Cox, who will run an additional 5 miles on the ASU track after the marathon while attempting to better the unofficial 50K world record (2:43:38) that has stood since 1988. “I’m going to need to come through the marathon in around 2:17 and my coach Terrence Mahon has drawn up a great program for me, it’s definitely something I know I can do.”
The race will begin with a wheelchair start at 7:30 am Sunday, January 16 in downtown Phoenix. The marathon will start at 7:40 am, followed by the half-marathon start at 8:30 am. For complete race details and more, visit Competitor.com.