MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Returning open and masters champion Mbarak Hussein (Albuquerque, N.M.) leads the men and two-time Olympian Marla Runyan (Eugene, Ore.) leads the women's field at The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, host of the USA Marathon Championships this Sunday, October 1 in Minneapolis. The fields feature open and masters division championships for U.S. men and women. This year's event is thesixth time that The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon has hosted the championships.
Hussein returns to defend the open and masters titles that he won last year in unseasonably warm, humid conditions, but he is not likely to dominate the field as easily this time. Hometown favorite Jason Lehmkuhle of Team USA Minnesota appears to be in prime position to challenge for the title after a strong fifth-place finish at the USA 20 km Championships, held in New Haven, Conn., on Labor Day.
Lehmkuhle's finish in New Haven placed him ahead of a number of U.S. men who were using the 20 km as their final tune-up for the marathon championships, including USA Marathon Champion Ryan Shay (East Jordan, Mich.), who looks to be returning to similar form that carried him to the title in 2003. After an eighth-place finish at the 20 km Championships, Shay came back two weeks later to finish third at the USA 5 km Championships in Providence, R.I.
"I am healthy and my fitness level is good. I just finished my second to last interval session before the race," said Shay, who is wrapping-up his sea-level training at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. "The tapering phase has gone well, and my legs and body are feeling refreshed and I'm looking forward to a very competitive field and exciting race."
Also looking to add a championship trophy to their collections will be Simon Sawe (Albuquerque, N.M.), a new U.S. citizen who was sixth at the 20 km championships and fifth at the 5 km championships; Chris Graff (Arlington, Va.), the 2003 USA Men's 10 Mile Champion who finished ninth at New Haven; and Fasil Bizuneh (Bristol, Va.), the runner-up at the 5 km championships and seventh-place finisher at the 20 km championships who will be making his marathon debut.
Also challenging for the masters title will be Dennis Simonaitis (Draper, Utah) and Paul Aufdemberge (Redford, Mich.). Simonaitis won his third straight USA Masters 10 km Championship last weekend with Aufdemberge finishing second.
Runyan expecting challenges
Runyan, the USA 20 km champion at New Haven this year, looks to be an overwhelming favorite in the women's race but is expecting challenges from some new faces as well as some familiar ones.
One of the more familiar faces that Runyan is expecting to see is training partner Heather Hanscom (Eugene, Ore.). "I train with Heather, she is a great training partner and incredibly tough," remarked Runyan. "She will run well."
Other familiar faces include 2006 USA 25 km champion Turena Johnson Lane (Muncie, Ind.); 2003 USA Marathon Champion and Team USA Minnesota athlete Sara Wells; Emily Levan (Wiscasset, Maine), the first U.S. woman at this year's Boston Marathon, and Jenny Crain (Milwaukee, Wis.), fourth at the USA 20 km Championships.
Runyan is also looking for competition from a newer runner on the USARC - Zoila Gomez (Alamosa, Colo.), who has recorded top-five finishes at the USA 20 km Championships and the USA Women's Half Marathon Championship this year.
Returning masters champion Susan Loken (Phoenix, Ariz.) leads the women's masters race. She will be joined by "new" master Michelle Simonaitis (Draper, Utah) and Kim Jones (Ft. Collins, Colo.), former TCM champ. Jones has run the Twin Cities Marathon four times, winning twice and finishing second twice.
About the USARC
The USA Marathon Championships is the eighth race for the men on the 2006 USA Running Circuit (USARC) and the seventh 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 twelfth edition for the men and eleventh for the women, the 2005 circuit has eight events for both men and women.
Heading into the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, the final race on the men's 2006 USARC Team USA Minnestota's Andrew Carlson leads with 35 points, Bizuneh is in second with 28 and Fernando Cabada is in third with 27.
The women's circuit is currently led by Turena Johnson Lane with24 points, Zoila Gomez is in second with 20 and Jenny Crain is in third with 19.
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 2006 USARC visit www.usatf.org.