Marathon notebook: Half-marathon draws strong field of record seekers
If a course record is set in Saturday's 18th Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon, defending champion Chad Johnson will take some of the credit. Johnson has been giving the race rave reviews since making his Duluth debut last year, the first time the ra...
If a course record is set in Saturday's 18th Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon, defending champion Chad Johnson will take some of the credit.
Johnson has been giving the race rave reviews since making his Duluth debut last year, the first time the race offered prize money.
The 2008 event has the best men's field in race history and Ryan Meissen's 2002 mark of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 19 seconds could fall. The prize money has doubled for the record field of 6,619, with $14,000 being offered, including $1,500 to the winning man and woman.
"I've talked to a lot of people about coming here and a lot are making this race a permanent part of their schedule," Johnson said this week. "Having such a good field, though, will make it that much harder to win any money."
Johnson, 32, who grew up in Thorp, Wis., and often watched Grandma's Marathon, won the 2007 Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon in 1:05:08. Some of Saturday's competition will be in his traveling party of Mike Reneau and Nick Arciniaga. All three train and race with the Hansons-Brooks team in Rochester Hills, Mich.
All three competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, held in conjunction with the New York City Marathon last November -- Arciniaga, 24, was 17th in 2:17:08; Johnson was 20th in 2:17:58; and Reneau, 30, was 32nd in 2:18:51.
Reneau also was second in the 2005 Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon, while Arciniaga was the top American in the Boston Marathon on April 21. Arciniaga placed 10th in a personal best 2:16:13, the fourth straight year a U.S. runner was in Boston's top 10.
"I was shooting for 2:15 or better, but it was a little tougher course than I thought," Arciniaga told the Boston Globe. "I just dug deep and tried to catch as many guys as I could."
A week before the Boston Marathon, Johnson placed 20th in the 2008 London Marathon in 2:18:49 as the No. 2 American finisher. He has bests of 2:15:03 in the marathon and 1:04:01 in the half-marathon.
Who else is entered in the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon?
Fernando Cabada, 26, of Gray, Tenn., has the best previous time among entrants at 1:02:45 and holds the American record at 25 kilometers of 1:14:21; Brandon Leslie, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M., with a best of 1:03:10; Chris Lundstrom, 32, of Minneapolis, second in the 2006 Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon; and Duluth stars Jeremy Polson and Eric Hartmark. Oh, and Meissen, 30, of Mukwonago, Wis., who has won the race a mere six times.
"This is one of the more competitive American half-marathon fields in the United States," said Johnson, who bought his first pair of running shoes at Austin-Jarrow in Duluth. "As long as the weather is decent, and even if it isn't that great, I'm pretty sure there will be a course record."
Among the top entrants in the women's field are Peru's Maria Portilla, 35, of Albuquerque, second in the 2006 Grandma's Marathon; Caroline Rotich, 24, of Kenya with a half-marathon best of 1:12:49; Michelle Lilienthal, 26, of Minneapolis, who ran in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon in April; Ethiopian Belainesh Gebre, 20, of Flagstaff, Ariz., who won two half-marathons in 2007; and Katie Koski, 35, of Duluth, who has a best of 1:18:58. The women's course record is 1:10:00 by Colleen de Reuck in 2003.
GRANDMA'S HALL OF FAME
Grandma's Marathon has announced its 2008 Hall of Fame class, highlighted by long-time volunteers Sharon Buchanan, Jerry Frederick and Mary Spiering, along with frozen food entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci, an ambassador and sponsor of the race since its inception in 1977.
Buchanan and Spiering have been team captains in the finisher T-shirt area in Canal Park, while Frederick has been in charge of race course communications for more than 20 years.
Carolyn Mather of Morganton, Ga., is the recipient of the 2008 Ron Daws Ambassador Award. The elite masters runner has been a promoter of Grandma's Marathon and will run her 100th career marathon here Saturday.
Jeff Frey of Duluth, the official photographer of Grandma's Marathon for more than 20 years, is the recipient of the race's Award of Excellence.