MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Nicole Aish and Mbarak Hussein came away with their first USA titles at the USA Marathon Championships, hosted by the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday.
Aish of Gunnison, Colo., won in her debut at the distance, running 2:40:21, while Hussein captured both the open and masters titles in 2:18:28.
Unseasonably warm, humid and breezy conditions at the start led to a conservative approach by the front-runners, which in turn resulted in slower than usual performances. The lead pack of nearly 30 men passed the first mile in 5:22 with pre-race favorites Hussein, James Carney and Kyle Baker staying close to the front.
Hussein used a 5:07 fourth mile to thin the pack down to a dozen runners with Carney, Brandon Leslie and Baker staying in close contact. By the time the leaders hit half-way in 1:08:27, only 5 runners appeared to be in contention, but a series of sub-5:15 miles left Hussein on his own by the 20 mile mark.
"I was surprised to pull away like I did at that pace," said Hussein. "I really struggled on the hills, they were tough, but I am happy to win my first USA title. I am happy to represent the U.S. now."
Ben Rosario, of St. Louis, Mo. made a well-timed charge late in the race to finish second, running 2:20:43. Wynston Alberts of Portland, Ore. rounded out the top three, running 2:21:42.
In the women's race Aish, of Gunnison Colo., led from the beginning, sticking to her plan of running 2:35 pace and by seven miles had over two minutes on Team USA Minnesota's Dana Coons, the hometown favorite, who was also making her debut at the distance.
"I think I went out a little too fast the first ten miles or so," recalled Aish. "I would have liked to run a little faster, but I enjoyed it. I'm glad I picked Twin Cities as my first marathon."
Though Aish led by as much as five minutes at 20 miles, she just managed to outrun Zika Palmer of Boone, N.C. by 45 seconds. Palmer, co-founder of ZAP Fitness, ran a one minute and 36 personal best to finish second in 2:41:06. Susan Loken of Phoenix, Ariz. also ran a personal best of 2:43:10 to finish third while also winning the masters title.
National Track & Field Hall of Famer and 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson ran 2:46:27 finish 11th and qualify for an unprecedented seventh attempt for selection to the U.S. Olympic Team.
About the USARC
The USA Marathon Championships is the eighth race for the men on the USA Running Circuit (USARC) and the sixth for the women. The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series, featuring USA Championships from 5 km to the marathon and attracts the best U.S. distance runners. The eleventh edition for the men and tenth for the women, the 2005 circuit has nine events for men and seven events for women. Abdi Abdirahman leads the men's circuit with 48 points while Aish taking the lead for the women with 43.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with a final $12,500 grand prix purse ($6000, $4000, and $2500) for the top three men and women point scorers overall. The USARC points at the USA Marathon Championships will be doubled.
The mission of the USA Running Circuit is to showcase, support, and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $4 million dollars to U.S. distance runners.
For more information on the USA Marathon Championships and the 2005 USARC visit www.usatf.org.