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Alan Webb to Run US 8k Champs March 15 to Open 2008 Season
By David Monti
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (04-Feb) -- Alan Webb, the American record holder in the mile, has decided to open his Olympic year campaign on Saturday, March 15, with the Central Park Challenge, a road race here which will serve as the U.S. Men's 8-K Championship.

Race organizers, the New York Road Runners, announced Webb's participation at today's New York Track Writer's Luncheon at Da Tomasso Restaurant on Manhattan's West Wide.  It will be the first time that Webb has run the championship, and it will be the fourth serious road race of his career.

"I am really excited about runing the USA 8-K champs," said Webb in a written statement.  "It will be great to start my season off by running in New York City."

Race director and New York Road Runners' president and CEO, Mary Wittenberg, concurred.  "We're particularly pleased in this Olympic year to announce Alan Webb for his season debut," she told reporters.

Webb, 25, has extraodinary range for a miler.  His middle distance credentials are unassailable.  Last year he ran the fastest 800m by an American (1:43.84), and was #2 on the world list.  A week before, he broke Steve Scott's vaunted U.S. record in the mile, clocking 3:46.91, the fastest mile in the world last year.  He also ran the fastest time in the world last year for 1500m: 3:30.54.

"It was awesome," Webb told RRW via telephone from the small track in Brasschaat, Belgium, where he set the mile record.  Then he joked, "I think I have the world record for the least number of spectators."

But Webb is also an accomplished distance runner, and has to be considered an immediate favorite to make the podium at the Central Park Challenge.  On the track he's run 13:10.86 for 5000m and 27:34.72 for 10,000m.  He's also run two 12 km cross country races at the U.S. Championships, finishing fourth in 2004 (he failed to finish in 2005).  He even dabbled in Spanish cross country in 2006, taking fifth at Valladolid (10.75 km) and fourth in Haro (12.4 km).  He once ran the Utica Boilermaker  15-K as a training run when he was just 18 back in 2001.

In addition, the Road Runners announced that there would be a special invitational all-women's 8 km race which would precede the Central Park Challenge, featuring both American and international competitors.  Wittenberg said that there would actually be three separate competitions that day using two different courses.

"We're going to put on a peoples' race first," explained the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier.  That race would be held on he popular 5.15 mile (8.29 km) loop which formed the heart of the U.S. Men's Olympic Trials Marathon last November.  However, the plan for the professional athletes is to have them run on the Park's "lower loop," the rolling 2.83 km circuit used for last year's 8-K Championship when heavy snowfall made clearing the larger loop impossible.  The snow was so bad that the race had to be postponed by a day to give crews enough time to clear off the snow.  The multi-lap course was a crowd pleaser.

"Our preference is to use the course we used by default last year," said Wittenberg who was still working out some details with the City's Parks Department.

Both the Central Park Challenge and the women's invitational 8-K will feature a $35,000 prize money purse, with $10,000 going to the male and female winners.

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