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Two Champions to Meet in NYC Half Women’s Race

Defending NYC Half champion Caroline Rotich of Kenya and ING New York City Marathon 2011 winner Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia will headline a global group of stars at the NYC Half on Sunday, March 18.

Joining them on the starting line for this renowned race through Manhattan will be two-time ING New York City Marathon champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil and New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith, whose half-marathon time of 1:07:11 is the fastest ever run in the United States by a woman.

The international men’s field also includes Moroccan Olympian Abderrahime Bouramdane; Kenyan Peter Kirui, who competed in the 10,000 meters at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea; 2011 IAAF World Championships Marathon bronze medalist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia; Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis, Wesley Korir of Kenya, runner-up at the 2011 Bank of American Chicago Marathon; Ethiopian Olympian Deriba Merga, the 2009 Boston Marathon champion; and Kenyan Samuel Chelanga, the NCAA 10,000-meter record-holder. This group will get a strong challenge from the home country: Previously announced were three world-class Americans: 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, two-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, and 2011 World Championships 10,000-meter runner Scott Bauhs.

Additional international women’s pros include Mexican Olympian Madaí Pérez, British Olympian Jo Pavey, Dutch Olympian Hilda Kibet, and Claire Hallissey of Great Britain, a contender for the British Olympic team. Previously announced were top American runners Kara Goucher and Desiree Davila (both members of this year’s U.S. Olympic Marathon team), Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, Molly Pritz, Julie Culley, Jeannette Faber, and Stephanie Pezzullo.

NYRR’s flagship half-marathon, in its seventh running, will feature a race-record field of 15,000 runners and a thrilling new course. Also new this year, WABC-TV will be airing the NYC Half live, beginning at 7:00 a.m., as part of NYRR’s recently announced comprehensive television agreement with ESPN/WABC-TV. The race will also be broadcast live on the New York Road Runners website. Viewers can tune in at 7:00-9:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday, March 18 to tv.nyrr.org to watch the race coverage. The NYC Half will again offer a prize purse of $100,000—the largest half-marathon purse in the United States.  The men’s and women’s champions will each earn $20,000. The race continues to attract prominent professional athletes and recreational runners from around the world. 

“A dynamic field of stars continues to shine brighter with the additions of Caroline, Firehiwot and Kim on the women’s side, Marilson on the men’s side, and a number of other international notables in both races,” said Wittenberg. “In an Olympic year, the NYC Half will provide a thrilling preview of many of our sport’s finest as they continue on their ‘Road to London.’”

After winning the NYC Half in 2011 with a course-record time of 1:08:51, defending champion Caroline Rotich, 27, of Kenya, will be on familiar ground. Rotich also finished eighth in the ING New York City Marathon 2010, and she ran 2:24:26—a personal best by five minutes—to take fourth place at the 2011 Boston Marathon.

“Winning the NYC Half last year made me believe that anything is possible if I train hard,” said Rotich. “It made me believe that I can win more and more. The first time I went to New York, it was so busy and it was too much for me! But the more I go back, it gets easier and easier. I love all the crowds that come out to watch in New York. Now, I’m really excited to go back and try to defend my title.”

Rotich will face fierce competition from reigning ING New York City Marathon Champion Firehiwot Dado, 28, of Ethiopia, who finished in a personal-best time of 2:23:15 in her New York City debut. Dado is also a three-time winner of the Rome City Marathon.

“Since my victory at the ING New York City Marathon 2011, I have been looking forward to returning to the streets of NYC to compete again,” said Dado. “I took a short break from training after my win and I have been training very well. I am excited to return to NYC and be a part of the NYC Half, and I look forward to experiencing the great hospitality of NYRR again.”

Gomes dos Santos, 34, of Brazil, is comfortable on NYC streets, having twice won the ING New York City Marathon (2006, 2008); he is the only South American to win the race. Gomes has finished in the top 10 in the ING New York City Marathon a total of four times, and last spring he finished fourth at the Virgin London Marathon in a personal-best time of 2:06:34.

“I am excited to be returning to New York for the NYC Half,” said Gomes. “My two wins in the ING New York City Marathon have been the most important victories of my running career, and last year the NYC Half prepared me well for the personal best that I set in the Virgin London Marathon. I’m hoping to run even faster in both races in this important Olympic year.”

Kim Smith, 30, a native of Auckland who now lives in Providence, RI, broke her own record for the fastest-ever half-marathon by a woman on U.S. soil when she won the 2011 Rock ’n’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon in 1:07:11. Smith has finished the ING New York City Marathon twice (2010, 2011), placing fifth both times. She holds 12 New Zealand records at distances from the mile to the marathon. 

Other top international athletes in the field:

  • Abderrahime Bouramdane, 34, of Morocco, finished fourth in the marathon at last summer’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. He has finished fifth twice in the ING New York City Marathon (2008, 2009).
  • Peter Kirui, 24, of Kenya finished sixth in the 10,000 meters at the 2011 IAAF World Championships. He has a half-marathon best of 59:40.
  • Feyisa Lilesa, 22, of Ethiopia, is the 2011 IAAF World Championships Marathon bronze medalist. He became the youngest man in history to break 2:06 for the marathon in 2010. (That distinction was later claimed by his countryman Bazu Worku.)
  • Eric Gillis, 31, of Canada, represented his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at 10,000 meters. He was the 2007–2008 Canadian 10,000-meter champion and has met the Canadian Olympic Committee’s marathon standard of 2:11:28 for the 2012 Olympic Games.
  • Wesley Korir, 29, of Kenya, is a University of Louisville graduate who finished second in the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. He became the first back-to-back winner of the Los Angeles Marathon in eight years when he won in 2009 and 2010.
  • Deriba Merga, 31, of Ethiopia, is former World Championships bronze medalist and Boston Marathon champion (both in 2009) and the fastest man in the field, with a 59:15 personal best in the half-marathon.
  • Samuel Chelanga, 27, of Kenya, became one of only 11 men in history to win back-to-back NCAA cross-country titles while running for Liberty University in Virginia. He made his professional road racing debut at the BAA 10K last June, finishing fourth.
  • Madaí Pérez, 32, of Mexico is her country’s marathon record-holder (2:22:59) and has twice been on the podium at the NYC Half.
  • Jo Pavey, 38, of Great Britain, is a three-time Olympian and one of the top female British track and field athletes of all time.  She has transitioned into the road-racing scene in recent years: She won the 2011 Bupa London 10,000 and finished ninth at the ING New York City Marathon 2011.
  • Hilda Kibet, 30, of the Netherlands, is a Dutch Olympian and the 2007 NYC Half champion.
  • Claire Hallissey, 28, of Great Britain, finished sixth in the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She will run this year’s Virgin London Marathon in an attempt to secure the third and last spot on the British Olympic women’s marathon team.

The NYC Half will offer runners a spectacular tour of Manhattan as they race through Central Park, Times Square, the Hudson River waterfront, and lower Manhattan en route to the scenic South Street Seaport finish line. At the Post-Race Festival Presented by Poland Spring, there will be refreshments, entertainment by Irish rockers Black 47 and the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, treatments supplied by the Swedish Institute of Massage, and much more. The Festival is free and open to the public.

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