December 5, 2015
We’re 10 weeks out from the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and that means it’s time for the top pros to start tuning up for Los Angeles. Next month’s Houston Half Marathon is always a popular test but for those who want a larger buffer between races (Houston is less than four weeks before the Trials), Sunday’s Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon offers an earlier option.
Though there are a few men’s contenders in the field (Jeffrey Eggleston, Aaron Braun), the main action in San Antonio comes on the women’s side as the race features three of the top four finishers from the 2012 Olympic Trials — Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Amy Cragg. They’re not the only Olympic hopefuls who will toe the line, however, as Kellyn Taylor (fresh off a 71:01 HM pb in Philadelphia) and three-time World Cross Country competitor Renee Baillie are also in the field. We provide race details below, followed by a brief preview.
What: 2015 Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon
Where: San Antonio, Texas (course map)
When: 8:30 a.m. ET
Women’s elite field
|Kara Goucher||Boulder, CO||66:57||2007 10k World Champs bronze medalist|
|Shalane Flanagan||Portland, OR||68:31||Bronze medalist ’08 Olympic 10k; 5x US record holder|
|Karolina Nadolska||Poland||70:36||Polish HM record holder|
|Kellyn Taylor||Flagstaff, AZ||70:59||She’s set PRs for 10K, 10Mile, 15K and Marathon this year.|
|Amy Cragg||Portland, OR||71:11||RnR Arizona Half champ in January. 2012 Olympian in 10,000m.|
|Renee Baillie||Bend, OR||71:51||Multi-time member of Team USA at World XC Champs|
|Wendy Thomas||Windsor, CO||72:29||12th at ’12 Olympic Trials|
|Kelly Williamson||Austin, TX||74:42||38-year-old triathlete|
|Mona Stockhecke||Germay||74:57||2013 Hamburg Marathon champ|
|Leonora Petrina||Bayport, NY||75:21||Ran her PR of 1.15.21 at the Brooklyn Half Marathon in 2014. Formerly of New Zealand.|
|Lauren Smith||Lake Jackson, TX||76:35||3rd place at RnR San Antonio 2014 2nd place at RnR San Antonio|
|Lauren Versweyveld||Fort Worth, TX||79:14||2015 RnR Dallas Champ. 2015 Rock N’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon champ.|
|Cate Robbie||Boulder, CO||79:16||4th place 2015 Denver RnR Half|
|Michele Bryceland||Virginia Beach, VA||83:18||Overall Female Winner Shamrock 1/2 marathon in 2014, in Virginia Beach|
|Amy Johnston||Salinas, CA||83:28||1st Women Overall Salinas Valley Half Marathon (2015).|
We’ll now say a few things about the leading ladies.
Shalane Flanagan: On paper, if all of these women are treating this as a race, Flanagan is the favorite considering she is by the far the best marathoner in the field and also had the best 2015 season on the track and roads. Flanagan was 6th at Worlds in the 10,000, set the U.S. road 10k record (31:03) two weeks later in the Netherlands and ended her season with a runner-up finish behind the indomitable Molly Huddle at the U.S. 5k road champs on September 20.
Now Flanagan is back in marathon mode, and thus we shouldn’t read too much into Sunday’s race. Flanagan tweeted on Wednesday that San Antonio will be her “first long tempo effort in my Olympic trials buildup.” In addition, Flanagan tweeted last week that she had just completed her first workout of her buildup. For most runners, that sort of approach would make the win a secondary objective, but considering that Flanagan is the second-fastest U.S. marathoner of all time (2:21:14), her long tempo effort makes her competitive in almost any domestic race. And at least one member of the Goucher family is picking Flanagan for the win:
"@ShalaneFlanagan is going to be in Texas? She will win, she's the best. Sorry mom".
— Colt Goucher (@ColtGoucher) December 3, 2015
Final Thoughts On Flanagan: It almost doesn’t matter what she runs in this one. Barring a total bomb, or a DNF due to injury, she’s a near lock for 2016.
Amy Cragg: We’ll get to Colt’s mom in a minute, but first let’s focus on Amy Cragg, who has served as Flanagan’s training partner for the past few weeks in Flagstaff, Ariz., and who will likely train with Flanagan for much of this buildup after relocating with husband, three-time Olympian Alistair Cragg, to Portland. After finishing 4th at USAs in the 10,000, Cragg did not have the best fall (14th at the U.S. 20k and 10-mile champs). Couple that with her DNF in April’s Boston Marathon and Cragg, much more than Flanagan, will need some signs that her buildup is going well to feel confident in LA. San Antonio doesn’t necessarily need to be one of those signs — if Cragg is on a similar buildup path to Flanagan, then this race is merely a very early indicator.
Final Thoughts On Cragg: There’s no doubting Cragg’s talent — she was 4th at the ’12 Marathon Trials, won USAs on the track that year in the 10,000 and ran 2:27:03 in Chicago in 2014 — but she’s not a lock for Rio like Flanagan, so her LA buildup bears closer monitoring. Given her poor showings at the US 20k and 10-mile champs, we want to see a big step forward here. She was 20 seconds behind Goucher in October; hopefully she’s not that far back here.
Kara Goucher: If there’s uncertainty surrounding Cragg, double it and you might come close to the scrutiny that Kara Goucher is facing. The 37-year-old Goucher beat out Cragg for the final spot on the Olympic team in 2012 but she battled foot and back injuries in 2014 and has yet to regain her pre-injury form. Goucher was just 14th in her first post-injury marathon, in New York last fall, running 2:37:03 on a windy day, and didn’t impress during an abbreviated track season that saw her take 18th at USAs in the 5,000.
But her 11th (54:54) at the U.S. 10-mile champs on October 4 was a step in the right direction, as was her solo 71:13 at the Big Sur Half Marathon on November 8 — her fastest half since 2012. If she can run with Flanagan and Cragg on Sunday, that should be a good sign for Goucher (though those two don’t seem to be as far along in their buildups as Goucher).
Final Thoughts on Goucher: Goucher’s talent is undeniable, but her health and age (37 — six years older than Cragg) are big question marks. Are her best days behind her or is she going to be the female equivalent of Meb in her late 30s? We’ll be looking at her results closer than anyone else for a sign of either decline or resurgence following her move back to Colorado and Mark Wetmore.
Kellyn Taylor: The 29-year old beat Goucher (by 17 seconds) and Cragg (by 37 seconds) at the 10-mile champs (she was 7th in 54:37), should also be in the lead group after running a PB of 71:01 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on October 31. Taylor has only run one marathon (2:28:40 in Houston in January) but she is one of several women who will be vying for that third spot on Team USA behind Flanagan and Desi Linden. A strong showing in San Antonio will certainly help her cause but if she’s behind Goucher and Cragg in this one, she’s going to have her work cut out for her in 10 weeks.
One other woman worth watching: Poland’s national record holder Karolina Radolska (70:36), who ran 2:26:31 in Osaka last year and won the 2014 Lodz Marathon in 2:28:12. She has only raced once in 2015, however: a 34:47 road 10k in Prague in September.
Note: We reached out to coaches Jerry Schumacher and Mark Wetmore to try to get a gauge on what they are expecting from Flanagan and Goucher respectively but both coaches seem to be playing things a little coy and didn’t get back to us. That’s probably a smart move from a coaching standpoint. Keep expectations low, particularly in public, so that you can keep your prized pupils positive no matter how they run some 10 weeks out in the midst of heavy marathon training.
Men’s elite field
|Aaron Braun||Alamosa, CO||61:38||He ran a 2:12:54 at Houston this year, to set his marathon PR.|
|Jeffrey Eggleston||Boulder, CO||62:41||He has represented USA at the World Champs 3x. Las Vegas 1/2 Champ.|
|Justin Young||Louisville, CO||63:25||Personal best set back in 2009. Ran 61:26 for 20km in Connecticut in September.|
|Nathan Martin||Spring Arbor, MI||70:02||3xNAIA national champion while at Spring Arbor University. Olympic marathon trials qualifier ’16|
|Tyler McCandless||Boulder, CO||63:14||Penn State All-American 2x Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier.|
|Kaspars Briska||Latvia||debut||Has represented Latvia at the Euro Champs on the track (3K steeple) & World XC.|
|Chris Burnett||Wichita, KS||64:24||His 1/2 time is the state record and fastest time ever run in the state of Kansas.|
|Barnabas Kirui||Dallas, TX||65:20||NCAA champion (steeple) at University of Mississippi; 7-time SEC Champion.|
|Jonny Wilson||Flagstaff, AZ||65:10||Winner of the 2015 RnR Savannah 1/2 in November (also raced at RnR Philly 10/31).|
|Phillip Baar||Corpus Christi, TX||debut||2014 South Central Region NCAA D1 All-Regional Team|
|Evan Lewandowski||Medford, WI||debut||2-time NCAA D2 All-American (34th and 13th at cross country nationals)|
|Adam Waldum||Cedar Park, TX||debut||Ran 15:11 for 5000m at the Texas Relays in 2015|
|Chris Fyock||Parma, OH||67:54||Set his personal best at the Columbus Nationwide Half Marathon running 1:07:54|
|Ryan Smith||Kingwood, TX||70:40||Last year’s RRCA Road 10K State Champion|
|Xavier Rodriguez||Poth, TX||66:29||5th in this race last year|
The 31-year old Eggleston is the most-accomplished marathoner in the men’s field; since the last Olympic Trials, only Meb Keflezighi (2:08:37), Dathan Ritzenhein (2:07:47) and Luke Puskedra (2:10:24) have run faster than Eggleston’s 2:10:52 at last year’s Gold Coast Marathon. Eggleston was a DNF in his last marathon on a steamy day in Beijing at the World Championships, but he’s coming off a win at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon on November 14 (64:40). Eggleston races a lot of half marathons (this will be his eighth of 2015 so many of them are sort of workouts for him) many of them put on by the Competitor Group like this one, so we aren’t expecting a really fast time here; look for a performance in the 64-minute range.
The fastest half marathoner in the San Antonio field is the 29-year old Braun, who ran 61:38 to take second at the U.S. Half Marathon Champs in Houston last year. After an unsuccessful debut marathon in Los Angeles last year (2:19:51), Braun fared much better in marathon #2 in January, running 2:12:54 to take 7th in Houston. He’s in good form right now, as he finished fourth in last week’s 4.75-mile Manchester Road Race (21:48), losing only to Will Geoghegan, Donn Cabral and Maverick Darling, men whose specialties lie much closer to the Manchester race distance than Braun’s does. Braun should be viewed as the favorite in San Antonio and it will be interesting to see what he can run on Sunday.
Beyond Eggleston and Braun, only two other men in the field have broken 64:00. One, 36-year-old Justin Young, will be hard pressed to accomplish it on Sunday (he hasn’t broken 64:00 since 2009) but could be in the running for a top-five spot. The other, Tyler McCandless, enjoyed a big 2014 with strong runs in the half (63:25) and the marathon (2:15:26, PB) but has yet to approach either of those times this year.
More: Discuss this race in our forum: MB: Official 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Thread: Who you got – Flanagan, Goucher or Cragg?