McPherson, Rothstein-Bruce take Half Marathon titles; abundant sunshine and ideal running conditions greet runners from all 50 states; Andy Grammer headlines post race concert
TEMPE, Ariz. – It was a birthday celebration unlike any other as the P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon celebrated 10 years running in the Valley of the Sun. In the men's marathon, 23-year-old Ryan Neely from Berkeley, California took the lead for the first time at mile 23 to win his second marathon in unorthodox fashion, crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 7 seconds.
From the gun, Roosevelt Cook of Oak Hills, CA set the early pace, running an opening mile of 5:16 and hitting the 5K mark in 16:53, more than 20 seconds ahead of the second place runner. Unbeknownst to Cook, behind him was Moroccan Mohamed Fadil, who owns formidable personal bests for the 10K (28:22) and half-marathon (61:07), and was competing in his first marathon. Fadil caught Cook at 8 miles with the two runners trading the lead, hitting the halfway mark in 1:11:44.
At mile 15, Fadil opened up a 10 second gap before his pace began to deteriorate. Cook was in full command of the race at mile 20 as Fadil faded away, but was unable to seize the opportunity, succumbing to stomach issues which forced him to stop and walk at several points along the course. Out of sight the entire race, Neely took the lead for the first time at mile 23 and held on through to the finish. Cook finished second in 2:36:10 and Christopher Bain of Tacoma Park, MD took third in 2:36:50.
"This was only my second marathon, and I can't believe I won," said Neely, who ran track and cross-country at Harvard and is currently enrolled in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at UC Berkeley.
Neely's girlfriend is 22-year-old Kimberly O'Donnell, who finished third in the women's marathon with a time of 2:47:29. The race was won by Christie Foster from Erie, Pennsylvania in 2:44:42, a 10-minute personal best for the former All-American at Mercyhurst College. Running alone for much of the distance, Foster said was focused on a solid time more than a win. She's looking ahead to the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016.
"It's so exciting, I never really thought I would win today so it's a huge surprise," said Foster, who recently moved to Arizona because of her military husband's job transfer. "It was just beautiful and the weather was perfect. I got lost in the beautiful scenery."
Heather Lieberg finished second with a time of 2:47:17 to complete the women's podium.
The half-marathon was dominated by Scott MacPherson, 25, of Austin, Texas, who won in 1:05:25. MacPherson dropped Jake Krong, 28, and Danny Mercado, 25, around the 8-mile mark, and continued on alone until the finish line. The University of Arkansas graduate says he was training his mom and sister for the race and used the half marathon to test his own fitness as the training season begins.
"I felt good during the race and it was a great start to the year," he said. "I hope to carry this over and get some excellent results on the U.S. road circuit throughout the summer."
Krong would go on to finish second in 1:05:55, with Mercado in third at 1:07:11.
Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, 29, of Flagstaff, Arizona took the women's title in the half marathon, winning in 1:15:18. Behind her was Polish native Dorota Gruca, who watched Bruce leave the pack behind between miles 7 and 8. Gruca finished in 1:15:56, with Connie Teague of Kansas City in third at 1:16:46.
"That's when the real race started," Gruca said. "I felt good and was trying to keep up with her but she was too fast. The last few miles were tough. I'm still happy with my place and my time, which is the best I've run since 2010."
Arizona's premier running event capped off its tenth birthday in celebratory fashion, as singer Andy Grammer gave an impressive live performance as the headliner at the post-race concert, where thousands of runners enjoyed the sunshine and perfect weather. Grammer said he might return soon and cross the finish line himself before performing.
"It's on my bucket list," he said.
The running tour through Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale has brought the community together for health, fitness and fun since it debuted in 2004, lining the course with live music and entertainment every mile. Of the 276,000 runners who have participated over the past decade, 170 have returned to run each and every year.
The 11th annual P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Marathon & ½ Marathon will return to the Valley of the Sun on Sunday, January 19, 2014. For complete results, photos and more, visit www.RunRocknRoll.com.
2013 P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona - Race Results
Place, Name, Age, Hometown, Time, Prize
1. Ryan Neely, 23, Berkeley, CA, 2:31:07, $1,000
2. Roosevelt Cook, 33, Oak Hills, CA, 2:36:10, $500
3. Christopher Bain, 35, Tacoma Park, MD, 2:36:52, $250
4. Jules Miller, 26, Mesa, AZ, 3:37:30, $500*
6. Aj Rankel, 42, Canada, 2:45:13, $500^
1. Christie Foster, 25, Sierra Vista, AZ, 2:44:42, $1,000
2. Heather Lieberg, 33, Helena, MT, 2:47:17, $500
3. Kimberly O'Donnell, 22, Santa Clara, CA, 2:47:29, $250
5. Chelsea Jones, 23, Glendale, AZ, 2:57:07, $500*
7. Susan Loken, 48, Phoenix, AZ, 2:59:56, $500^
Men's Half Marathon
1. Scott MacPherson, 25, Austin TX, 1:05:25, $1,000
2. Jake Krong, 28, Salt Lake City, UT, 1:05:55, $500
3. Danny Mercado, 25, Flagstaff, AZ, 1:07:11, $250
Women's Half Marathon
1. Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, 29, Flagstaff, AZ, 1:15:18, $1,000
2. Dorota Gruca, 42, Las Cruces, NM, 1:15:56, $500
3. Connie Teague, 26, Kansas City, MO, 1:16:46, 250
* indicates state of Arizona prize (must have lived in state for one year)
^indicates prize for top marathon masters