Meb, Flanagan top Marathon Trials

Meb Keflezighi ran away from Ryan Hall in the final mile and Shalane Flanagan prevailed in a race long duel with Desiree Davila to win the USA Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas Saturday.

Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medalist and 2009 New York City Marathon champion, set a personal marathon record of 2:09:08 in finishing 22 seconds ahead of runner-up Ryan Hall, who recently set the American men’s marathon best of 2:04:58 at the Boston Marathon. Keflezighi, who at age 36 becomes the oldest man to win the US Olympic Marathon trials, overcame several injuries to best his own 2004 marathon qualification time. However, he fell six seconds short of Ryan Hall’s 2008 USA Olympic Marathon Trials record time of 2:09:02 set in New York’s Central Park.

Abdi Abdirahman, 33, the Somali-born runner who competed in three previous Olympics in the 10,000 meters, finished in 2:09:47 and edged 2008 Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenheim by 8 seconds to take the third and final USA Olympic qualifying spot. Ritzenheim, who finished 9th at the Beijing Olympic marathon and has a 5,000 meter best of 12:56.27, will be the first US men’s Olympic marathon alternate.

This race was the first time that four USA men cracked the 2:10 mark in any marathon.
The new men’s and women’s Olympians all had an excellent payday -- $50,000 for first $40,000 for second and $30,000 for third plus a bonus of $20,000 for making the team.

In the women’s race, Shalane Flanagan broke free of tenacious challenger Desiree Davila in the final miles to hit the line in 2:25:38. Flanagan, 30, broke her own marathon best by over 3 minutes and topped the US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials record set by Colleen De Reuck in 2004 by 2 minutes 30 seconds. Flanagan was not as experienced as the other top contenders since her marathon best was 2:28:40 placing second at New York in 2010. But she used her proven track speed – she won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in the 10,000 meters in 30:22.22, shattering the American record and competed in the 2004 Olympics in the 5000 meters – to put the race away with a surge in the final mile.

Desiree Davila, who thanks to her 2:22:38 qualifying time came into this race as the favorite, redeemed her 2008 Marathon Trials 13th place 2:37 performance with a powerful performance and finished second, just 17 seconds back of Flanagan.

Kara Goucher, 33, who had the third-best qualifying time in the field with a 2:24:52, finished third, 11 seconds back of Davila. Goucher came back strong after maternity leave to take a strong 5th at Boston in 2011. Amy Hastings, 27, ran with the leaders for the first 25km, fell back, then surged back to leader with about 9 miles to go, then fell back to finish fourth in a time of 2:27:07.

Deena Kastor, 38, the greatest American woman marathoner with a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic marathon and a 2:19:36 personal best while winning the 2006 London Marathon, finished 6th in 2:30:40 and thus fell 4:35 short of making her 4th Olympics.

There were two triathletes in the 189-women field. Tyler Stewart, famed for her record setting Ironman bike splits -- 4:42:40 is her best – finished 65th of 152 finishers in 2:44:04, just 29 seconds back of Jennifer Rhines, who placed third at the 2004 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

Joanna Zeiger, the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, and who ran 2:47 at the 2000 US Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials, was on pace for a 2:42 marathon until she ran into intestinal troubles two-thirds through the race. “I started projectile vomiting at Mile 17 and fought dry heaves for two more miles until I could not stand up and had to quit,” Zeiger said in telephone interview. “It is not an unfamiliar problem – it was unfortunately hotter than I am used to and I was dehydrated.” Zeiger added that she felt she was taking a chance running just six weeks after her 2:43 Olympic Trials qualifying effort at the California International Marathon. “My legs felt heavy at the start but I felt good until Mile 17,” she said.

2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials
Houston, Texas
14 January 2012
26.2 miles

Men’s results

1. Meb Keflezighi, 36, 2:09:08
2. Ryan Hall, 29, 2:09:30
3. Abdi Abdirahman, 33, 2:09:47
4. Dathan Ritzenheim, 29, 2:09:55
5. Brett Gotcher, 27, 2:11:06
6. Andrew Carlson, 29, 2:11:24
7. Fernando Cabada, 29, 2:11:53
8. Nick Arciniaga, 28, 2:11:56
9. James Carney, 33, 2:12:23
10. Jimmy Grabow, 38, 2:12:29

Women’s results

1. Shalane Flanagan, 30, 2:25:38
2. Desiree Davila, 28, 2:25:55
3. Kara Goucher, 33, 2:26:06
4. Amy Hastings, 27, 2:27:07
5. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, 33, 2:29:45
6. Deena Kastor, 38, 2:30:40
7. Clara Grandt, 24, 2:30:46
8. Alissa McKaig, 25, 2:31:56
9. Dot McMahan, 35, 2:32:16
10. Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, 38, 2:33:42
35. Colleen De Reuck, 47, 2:38:52
64. Jennifer Rhines, 37, 2:43:35
65. Tyler Stewart, 33, 2:44:04