Kara Goucher Returns to the Roads
Cox crushes own U.S. 50K record; Meyerhoff wins women's marathon; Forrest takes first pro race; wheelchair course record smashed; nearly 30,000 participants at 8th edition in the Valley of the Sun by From Dan Cruz, Competitor Group
PHOENIX - It's no secret that Kara Goucher doesn't like to lose. And that doesn't bode well for her competition at April's Boston Marathon.
Goucher, 32, returned to road racing at the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half-Marathon Sunday morning, overcoming an adversity-filled week to finish second in the woman's 13.1-mile race. Despite accomplishing her goals of shaking off the rust and toeing a start line after more than a year away from the sport, the 2008 Olympian left the finish line at Arizona State University with her competitive fire burning a little hotter.
"I don't like to lose and I don't like to not run fast, I'm definitely ready to get home and work out. It's motivating for sure," said Goucher, who is ninety-two days away from Marathon Monday in Boston. "I had a great time, but it stings a little. I'm not used to...not only losing, but being so far out of it. I accomplished what I needed to today, but I'm leaving here hungrier than when I arrived."
The top-ranked U.S. women's marathoner in 2009, Goucher was previously unbeaten over the half-marathon distance. She finished with an official time of 1:14:02, with Madai Perez of Mexico winning in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 49 seconds. Perez, who has finished 11th and 15th at recent World Championship Marathons and placed 19th at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon, led from the start clocking a 5:12 opening mile.
"I thought I was in shape to run 73 minutes, but I'm fine with the time," Goucher added, running 34:40 for the first 10K. "My coach wanted me to run 5:40s through 8 or 9 miles and then pick it up if I could, so I ran 5:40s but couldn't pick it up and what I had is what I had. I hung steady and I think I ran a 5:40 pace throughout so he [Alberto Salazar] is happy based on the workouts I had, and especially after the week that I had."
In the days before the race, it was uncertain if Goucher would even be able to make to the start line in Arizona. She spent two mostly sleepless nights in a Portland hospital earlier in the week with her 16-week-old son, Colt, who needed fluid drained from an abscess on his jaw caused by an infection. The emergency impacted not only the final training for her first race since the 2009 World Championships Marathon, but delayed her travel plans as well.
"It was nice to be back out there. Last night [Saturday] I forgot to do a lot of things I used to do by second nature," she added. "It was overwhelming. It was a hectic week. I didn't get much sleep, not much rest."
Josh Cox, 35, won his second consecutive Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 2:17:32 and then continued on to the Arizona State University track where he crushed his U.S. record for 50 kilometers by more than 3½ minutes, but just missed the world mark by 7 seconds. He completed the 50K (31.05 miles) with an official time of 2 hours, 43 minutes and 45 seconds.
"Seven seconds is hard to swallow," commented Cox, referring to South African Thompson Magawana's world best of 2:43:38 from 1988. "But I'm happy. The American record is nothing to hang your head about. I did everything I could to click off those final miles. I'll be back. I would like to run the world record here in two years. I'd like to give it another shot ... that ever-elusive world record."
Shawn Forrest of Australia won the men's half-marathon in 1:03:07, 15 seconds ahead of Cox's Mammoth Track Club training partner, Alistair Cragg of Ireland.
"The first mile I just wanted to sit and get into a rhythm and then I planned to pick it up, depending on how I felt," Forrest said after the race. "I felt great and went for it. I really wanted to win so I'm happy."
Local resident Sally Meyerhoff of Tempe earned her first marathon victory in the women's event in 2:37:56. The 2009 USA 25K champion topped a leader board in which five women qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston.
"I feel so awesome," said Meyerhoff, who last finished fifth at the event in 2009. "I've wanted to win this race for the past three years. It was my first marathon in 2008 and to come back in my third try to win is unbelievable."
Scott Parsons of San Jose, Calif. took the men's wheelchair title, smashing the course record by more than five minutes. Parsons finished with an official time of 1:39:55.
While most of the eastern seaboard shoveled snow, nearly 30,000 entrants from all 50 states and 23 countries were greeted by 70 degree sunshine for the 8th annual road race that begins in downtown Phoenix, runs through Scottsdale and finishes adjacent to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
Notable half-marathon participants included Ali Vincent, winner of the fifth season of NBC's "The Biggest Loser", Jeff McMahon, keyboardist for Tim McGraw's band The Dancehall Doctors and Michellie Jones, 2006 Ironman champion, who at age 41 came through the finish line as the top Master in 9th place overall in 1:22:41.
8th P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon
Phoenix, AZ, Sunday, January 16, 2011
1) Josh Cox (CA), 2:17:32*
2) Solomon Kandie (KEN), 2:18:40
3) Roosevelt Cook (CA), 2:25:24
4) Allen Wagner (NM), 2:26:53
5) Frank Therrian (AZ), 2:28:16
*post-marathon, set pending U.S. 50K record of 2:43:45 (previous record, 2:47:17, Josh Cox (CA), P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona, 01/18/09)
1) Sally Meyerhoff (AZ), 2:37:56
2) Gina Slaby (AZ), 2:42:21
3) Liana Bernard (OR), 2:42:28
4) Jennifer Santa Maria (CA), 2:44:39
5) Ariana Hillborn (AZ), 2:45:37
8th P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona ½ Marathon
1) Shawn Forrest (AUS), 1:03:07
2) Alistair Cragg (IRL), 1:03:22
3) Joseph Chirlee (CO), 1:05:00
4) Mike Aish (CO), 1:05:18
5) Bret Schoolmeester (OR), 1:05:38
1) Madai Perez (MEX), 1:11:49
2) Kara Goucher (OR), 1:14:02
3) Emily Kroshus (CAN), 1:15:18
4) Wendy Thomas (CO), 1:17:11
5) Nicole Aish (CO), 1:19:00