On a picture-perfect winter day in the Valley of the Sun, Kenya's Solomon Kandie triumphed at the P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon, which featured a new finish line at Tempe Beach Park for the first time in the event's 11-year history.
The 35-year-old clocked a 2:21:00 for the 26.2-mile race, which started in downtown Phoenix and ran through the city of Scottsdale before finishing in Tempe.
A lead pack of three hit the halfway mark in 1:10:41, including Kandie, who previously finished second in the event in 2011, and Americans Tim Eisenga and Thomas Puzey. Eisenga, who ran stride for stride with Kandie for the first half of the race, was the first to fade just before mile 20. Puzey held strong for nearly 4 more miles, but Kandie proved to be the class of the field making his move at mile 24 to finish with the victory.
Puzey finished second with a time of 2:22:10, followed by Roosevelt Cook in third with a time of 2:23:36. It was a sweet redemption for Cook, who led the first 18 miles of the 2013 race before succumbing to stomach cramps and struggling to finish.
"I feel great," said Cook, who was born and raised in Phoenix. "I just wanted to run my race and finish strong. I couldn't have asked for conditions than we had out there this morning."
In the women's marathon, Tucson resident Amy Cole ran a 10-minute personal best to win with a comfortable margin in 2:49:26. Oklahoma resident McKale Davis finished second in 2:58:59, while Hawaii's Sally Dagzano rounded out the podium in 3:00:02.
"It feels awesome to win, I've had some really consistent training but it's taken two years to drop that much time," said Cole, who was a collegiate swimmer at Colgate University and hopes to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. "I like the Rock ‘n' Roll events, with the music and the energy made it a lot of fun out there."
Canadian Rob Watson of the B.C. Endurance Project won the men's half marathon, finishing in 1:05:03, more than 3 minutes ahead of second-place finisher Zachary Meineke (1:08:17) but only 3 seconds short of his goal.
"I was alone from the start, pretty much. I just tried to settle into a rhythm. I knew there was a big hill at mile 9 or 10 so I wanted to put some time in the bank and that hill really hurt and slowed me down quite a bit. But I finished strong and my strategy was to get a really hard effort in and I ran as hard as I could."
Watson called today's race a fitness test as he heads into the 2014 season with the NYC Half Marathon and Canadian Marathon Championships on the horizon. His first time at Arizona's premier running event was a positive experience, not only because of the win.
"I thought it was fantastic. Nice long straightaways and really good support. It was really well organized, with no interferences so it was really good to just get in the zone, just focus on running and not worry about anything else."
Fellow Canadian Natasha Wodak took second in the women's race, behind Jess Peterson, 36, of Great Britain. Peterson trailed Wodak through the beginning miles of the race, before making her move at mile 4.
"Natasha went out fast early so I thought I better stick with her. I stayed behind her for a bit but then there was a slight downhill so I went. The gap wasn't that big, she was always behind me so I couldn't slack off. She's really fast so I didn't want to get in a sprint with her."
Peterson is training for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in her native Denmark, and enjoyed the fun, relaxing Rock ‘n' Roll atmosphere.
"Sometimes you get into a race and there's so much pressure you forget to enjoy it so it's been really nice to be part of this," she said. "It's like a party it's really different so I enjoyed it. The crowds were brilliant, and the cheerleaders."
Wodak finished in 1:16:24, followed by Arizona's Meredith Placer, 27, who clocked in at 1:21:02.
The 11th running of the P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon welcomed nearly 24,000 entrants to the Valley of the Sun. The race was honored to welcome the family and friends of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who were tragically killed last summer in the Yarnell Hill Fire. The 19 + One Marathon Team was joined by Tom Ashcraft, father of firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, as the names of the 19 fallen heroes were read at the start line of the half marathon.
The race will return for a 12th year on Sunday, January 18, 2015.
Place, Name, Hometown, Time, Prize
1. Solomon Kandie, 35, Kenya, 2:21:00, $1,000
2. Thomas Rivers Puzey, 29, Flagstaff, AZ, 2:22:10, $1,000*
3. Roosevelt Cook, 34, Oak Hills, CA 2:23:36, $250
1. Amy Cole, 29, Tucson, AZ , 2:49:26, $1,500*
2. McKale Davis, 29, Fairfax, OK, 2:58:59, $500
3. Sally Dagzano, 37, Kula, HI, 3:00:02, $250
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