Hussein repeats, Runyan dominates at USA Marathon Championships


Jim Estes
LDR Programs Manager
USA Track & Field

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Returning men's open and masters champion Mbarak Hussein (Albuquerque, N.M.) ran 2:13:52 to successfully defend both titles and two-time Olympian Marla Runyan (Eugene, Ore.) dominated the women's field running 2:32:17 at The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, host of the USA Marathon Championships today in Minneapolis.

Despite the cool, dry conditions that met the sell-out crowd of 10,500 at the start, the men's lead pack of nearly 25 cruised through the first mile in only five minutes, 25 seconds, before hometown favorite Jason Lehmkuhle took charge with a 4:45 second mile. Running on his own, the Team USA Minnesota athlete opened a 20 second lead by five miles over a chase pack that included new American citizen Simon Sawe (Albuquerque, N.M.); first-time marathoner Fasil Bizuneh (Bristol, Va.); and 2003 USA Marathon Champion Ryan Shay (East Jordan, Mich.).

Once the chase pack joined Lehmkuhle at seven and a half miles, Hussein's title defense looked to be in jeopardy as he ran 50 meters behind the leaders, struggling to warm-up. Having suffered with a hamstring injury for most of the summer, Hussein chose to remain cautious for two more miles before he began to make an effort to establish contact with the front group.

Crossing Lake Nakomis between 11 and 12 miles, Bizuneh was feeling confident enough to flash a thumbs-up to the pace car while Hussein was noticeably less comfortable having just joined the leaders.

As the group of five steadily made their way through the remaining portion of the Minneapolis section of the course, maintaining a rhythm between 5:00 and 5:10 per mile, Shay began to drop off and soon found himself ten seconds behind the leaders at about 17 miles. Crossing the Mississippi River at 19 miles, he managed to rejoin the leaders and quickly made his way to the front in an attempt to make his run at a second marathon title.

With the course running along the river, the leaders began the steady climb into St. Paul. By 20 miles, Bizuneh began to loose his grip on the lead pack and quickly faded from view, less than a half mile later Lehmkuhle would falter. Approaching 21, Shay appeared to be in control, while Sawe trailed by a step and Hussein still seemed to be uncomfortable but somehow managed to hang on.

Despite the 22nd and 23rd miles passing in 5:25 and 5:28 respectively, Shay found himself beginning to fade as Sawe and Hussein began their duel up Summit Avenue. As the pair made their way towards the finish at the State Capitol, Hussein made one last effort to pull clear of Sawe for a 17-second win. Shay held on to run 2:14:58 for third. Chris Lundstrom (Minneapolis, Minn.) came from ninth at half-way to finish fourth in 2:17:34 and Bizuneh held on to fifth in 2:18:14.

In the women's race, the heavily favored Runyan took charge early and never looked back. By 10 km she had a 36 second lead over Mary Akor (Gardena, Calif.) and another 30 seconds on Maggie Chan-Roper (Shaw AFB, S.C.).

Runyan passed the half-way mark in 1:14:20 to open a comfortable lead of one minute, 46 seconds on Akor, while Zoila Gomez (Alamosa, Colo.) had overtaken Chan-Roper to move into third.

By 30 km, Runyan's lead over Akor had grown to nearly two minutes and Gomez was making a move to close to within 12 seconds of second place. Despite temperatures rising towards the 70's, Runyan began to slow but managed to hold on to most of her lead for a 1:33 victory over Akor, whose 2:33:50 was a personal best by 3:29.

Running perhaps the biggest personal best of the day Gomez turned in a 2:35:26 for a 6:16 personal best to finish third. Michelle Lilienthal (Iowa City, Iowa), the second U.S. woman at Boston earlier this year, also turned in a personal best to finish fourth in 2:35:51 and Turena Johnson Lane rounded out the top-five in 2:36:15.

Hussein's titles earned him a total of $39,000 in open and masters prize money and Runyan's win was worth $30,000.

Susan Loken (Phoenix, Ariz.) successfully defended her USA Masters Marathon title in 2:44:34, good for 15th in women's race. Loken earned a total of $9,000 for her performance.

A total of 26 athletes qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon with 11 men earning the right to compete at the trials in New York on November 3, 2007 and 15 women qualifying for the their trials in Boston on April 20, 2008.

The fields for the 25th annual event featured open and masters division championships for U.S. men and women. This year's event is the sixth time that The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon has hosted the championships.

The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon was the final race on the men's 2006 circuit and with his victory Hussein locked-up the 2006 USARC title with 42 points. Bizuneh finishes the circuit in second with 40 points and two-time USARC Champion Shay finishes third with 38 points.

With one race remaining, Runyan leads the women's circuit with 45 points, Gomez is in second with 40 points and Johnson Lane is in third with 36 points.

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.

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