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Americans Hope to Make Their Mark at London Marathon
By David Monti

(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

LONDON (20-Apr) --  At Sunday's talent-packed Flora London Marathon, where world record holders, world champions, and Olympic gold medalists will battle for one of the most prestigious titles in all of distance running, a strong group of American men also hope to make their mark.

Led by the former world record holder, Khalid Khannouchi of Ossining, N.Y., who won this race in 2002 in a then world record of 2:05:38, a group of six U.S. men have been drawn here by the opportunity to run with the world's best athletes, set personal best times, and perhaps snag a top placing.

"It will definitely be exciting and my preparation has gone very well," remarked Olympic silver medalist, Meb Keflezighi of San Diego, Calif., who will be making his London debut.

Khannouchi and Keflezighi are joined here by Fasil Bizuneh (Bristol, Tenn.), Joe Driscoll (Blowing Rock, N.C.), Ryan Hall (Big Bear Lake, Calif.) and Jason Hartman (Boulder, Colo.).  Bizuneh (2:18:14), Driscoll (2:18:40) and Hartmann (2:15:50) already have marathons under their belts, while Hall will be making his debut.

Hall's first try at 42.195 km is one of the most anticipated marathon debuts in the history of U.S. athletics.  The lanky, blond, 24 year-old made a stunning half-marathon debut in Houston last January, smashing both the U.S. and North American records for the distance in 59:43.  He's also the U.S. record holder for 20-K (57:54), a mark he set finishing 11th at the IAAF World Road Running Championships last October where he was the top non-African finisher.  It is well within Hall's abilities to break the U.S. marathon debut record, 2:09:40, held jointly by Alan Culpepper and Alberto Salazar.

"I'm kind of here more for the learning experience," said a relaxed-looking Hall while participating in a conference call with Keflezighi and Khannouchi yesterday.  He added: "I think I'm ready.  I've trained well."

Hall, who is coached by Terrence Mahon in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., has been able to do at least some of his training with Keflezighi whom he clearly admires.  "Just being around him he exuded confidence," said Hall.  He also said, "That's one of the things I learned from Meb, and that's to remain confident."

Keflezighi is in good form, but lost a week of training in March when he developed a huge blister on the bottom of his foot after winning the U.S. 15-K Championship at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla.  The blister was so large --the size of golfball, the athlete said-- he had to visit a hospital to have it drained.  It's mostly healed, he said, but he still has a bandage over it for extra protection.

"I really couldn't walk," said Keflezighi after the blister errupted.  He used a stationary bike to maintain his fitness.  "Land training is what I missed, but I worked really hard to get ready for this race," he added.

As for Khannouchi, still the only man to break the 2:06 barrier three times, he recognizes that he's not as strong as when he set the world record here five years ago.  At 35, and after battling a series of foot, leg and hip injuries, he still believes that he has a few good races --and good years-- left in him.

"I have confidence in my training and the people arond me," said Khannouchi who is coached by his wife, Sandra.  "I really managed to train very well."

But can he make the podium here for the third time and build on his fourth place finish from last year?

"Well, I don't have any tactic in mind because at this time we don't have any information about the pacing," said Khannouchi.  "You don't want to go fast, you don't want to go too slow.  You have to wait and see what the pacing will be."

Khannouchi said that it is no longer possible for him to do two marathons a year, every year.  But he's still out there; two years ago he thought about hanging up his racing flats.

"I really didn't have the motivation before," he said when he was struggling with injuries.  "I give thanks to my wife, my brothers.  At one time I thought it was over and I should really do something else."

All six of the Americans plan to run the U.S. Olympic Trials - Men's Marathon in New York City on Nov. 3

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