FIVE STORYLINES – AJC PEACHTREE ROAD RACE
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
ATLANTA, GA (02-Jul) — On Friday, July 4, Race Results Weekly will be on hand at the 45th annual Atlanta Journal Constitution Peachtree Road Race here, the largest fully timed road race in the United States. For the second consecutive year, the race serves as both the USA 10-K Championships for men and women. Ahead of the patriotic event, which is held on Independence Day, we detail five storylines to watch for:
— Olympic Marathoners Reunite: Four members of the United States’s 2012 Olympic Marathon team will race the rolling 6.2 mile course, each appearing to be at different levels of fitness. Abdi Abdirahman, 37, returns here with vast experience, having finished in the top eight four times, including a runner-up placing in 2007 (when he set a personal best of 28:11). However, Abdirahman hasn’t raced since April 21, when he was 16th at the Boston Marathon in 2:16:06. Abdirahman is a three-time U.S. National Champion at 10-K; if he finishes as the top American, he would tie Keith Brantly with four national crowns at the distance.
Ryan Hall, 31, will join Abdirahman in the men’s race. He’s raced here twice, finishing 19th in 2013 (29:16) and 17th in 2011 (29:16). If Hall wants to contend for the win, he’ll likely have to run close to his personal best of 28:22. Earlier this year, Hall’s clocked 30:13 and 30:32 for 10-K.
Desiree Linden, who like Abdirahman and Hall was unable to finish the 2012 Olympic Marathon due to injury, will be racing her second 10-K of the year. The Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project member was 22nd at the Oakley Mini 10-K in New York on June 14th, calling the race a major rust buster. Her time was 35:36.
“I took more down time than I traditionally do, so I’m feeling fresh and healthy and recovered,” said Linden, referencing the time period following her 2:23:54, tenth place showing at this year’s Boston Marathon. “New York was a rust buster. Turns out there is a little more rust than normal, but we’ll see where I’m at here.”
Boston Marathon champion and 2012 Olympic Marathon fourth place finisher Meb Keflezighi will not be starting at the front of the race with Hall and Abdirahman. Instead, he’ll be the last of more than 60,000 expected starters, running as part of the Atlanta Track Club’s inaugural Kilometer Kids Charity Chase. Keflezighi aims to pass 22,500 athletes, hoping to earn $75,000 for the club’s youth running program.
— Patriotic Themes All Around: Annually, the AJC Peachtree Road Race is run on the Fourth of July, Independence Day in America. This year, that tradition takes on extra meaning, as both the men’s and women’s USA 10-K Championship races will be held in conjunction with the event. For the first time in many years, the race has eliminated it’s international elite field, choosing solely to focus on American athletes.
“All too often races don’t understand that it is their responsibility, our responsibility, to make sure the general public here in the host city have a chance to understand who the elites are,” race director Rich Kenah told Race Results Weekly. “I’m excited that we’ll have almost 200,000 people as spectators who will hear that there are men and women racing for the U.S. Championships. They won’t have to look at the race this year and figure out, ‘OK, is that person American or are they a foreigner, and what race are they part of?’ They understand that this race is a U.S. Championship event this year.”
As an added incentive, the race has upped its American prize money to $100,000, including a $15,000 first place prize for the winner. Event records stand at 27:04 for men (Joseph Kimani, KEN, 1996) and 30:32 for women (Lornah Kiplagat, KEN, 2002).
The last Americans to win the AJC Peachtree Road Race were Ed Eyestone (1991) and Joan Nesbit (1995). According to Kenah, more than 60,000 athletes have entered the race this year, ranging from ages 10 through 95.
— Landry Seeks Third USA Road Win in 2014: Christo Landry has had a year to remember in national championships on the roads. At the last three USA Running Circuit events he’s entered, the 28-year-old has finished no lower than fourth among Americans. After placing fourth at the Gate River Run 15-K/USA 15-K championships, the College of William & Mary alum was sixth (top American) at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile/USA 10-Mile Championships, his first national title. Earning the gold medal, Landry told Race Results Weekly that a monkey had been lifted off his back.
“To make that breakthrough, to get that first national championship, that was something special to me. Something very special,” Landry said here today.
With no more burden of being title-less, Landry raced confidently at the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25-K/USA 25-K Championships, tying the American Record of 1:14:18.
Coming to Atlanta, Landry hopes to extend his national winning streak to four; his personal best for 10-K stands at 28:52, set here in 2011.
— Busy Season For Hastings: For 2012 Olympian Amy Hastings, racing 6.2 miles seems to be easy. The 30-year-old will be racing her third 10-K or 10,000m contest in 21 days, a grueling task that the Arizona State alum is prepared to conquer. Riding a wave of confidence, Hastings set a 10-K personal best of 32:33 at the Oakley Mini-10K on June 14, then was third (32:18.81) at the USA Track & Field Championships 10,000m at the USA Championships on June 26 in Sacramento. It will be intriguing to see how Hastings has recovered from last weekend, and if she can earn her first USA 10-K title on the roads.
— Post-Collegiate Debuts: Making their AJC Peachtree Road Race and professional road racing debuts are recent college graduates Juliet Bottorff and Andrew Springer. Bottorff is coming off a collegiate career at Duke University that saw her win the 2011 NCAA title at 10,000m. In the last month, she has finished third at the NCAA 10,000m Championships (32:40.61), fifth at the NCAA 5,000m Championships (15:55.94, a personal best), and fourth at the USA National Track & Field Championships 10,000m (32:37.46 just last week). If the arduous NCAA season hasn’t taken its toll on her legs, look for Bottorff to be up challenging in the front.
Springer showed great range while at Georgetown University, running 3:41.13 for 1500m and 29:21.67 for 10,000m on the track. He was the Big East Conference champion for 10,000m this year, and finished 13th in the discipline at the NCAA Championships (29:41.96).