Monday, September 19, 2011

Curtis Passes First Test on Road to NYC Marathon

Villanova grad Bobby Curtis top American finisher in half marathon
September 18, 2011

As a race promoter shouted the praises of Bobby Curtis to a gathered crowd near the iconic Art Museum steps, the former all-American stood alone on the stage clutching his copper Liberty Bell trophy. This performance wasn't intended to be a highlight, just a tune-up of sorts and a step in his transformation into one of the nation's premier marathon runners.

The Villanova graduate passed this test with ease as he was the first American to finish at Sunday morning's Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.

The 26-year-old navigated the course in 1 hour, 1 minute, and 52 seconds, which was good enough for ninth overall. He was aiming for a 62-minute finish and he finished eight seconds better than that. He said he wasn't trying to reach his peak yet, which he hopes comes in the fall on one of the sport's grandest stages.

"At this time of the season, New York City is the goal right now," Curtis said of November's New York City Marathon.

Kenya's Matthew Kisorio captured first place for the second straight year with a time of 58:46 while New Zealand's Kim Smith was the first female finisher at 1:07:11. Both of those times set records for all-comers in half marathons on American soil. Kisorio's time was the fourth fastest ever for a half marathon.

The half marathon was the longest race of Curtis' career, but he said he was able to handle it fine and was well-prepared after competing in 5,000- and 10,000-meter races earlier this year. At Villanova, Curtis was an all-American in his senior year as he captured the 2008 NCAA 5,000 title.

Curtis now will travel to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where he'll train for New York. Located near Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Lakes is situated almost 8,000 feet above sea level. He said that he's found his best races have come after training in high altitudes.

The 13.1-mile course started and finished near the Art Museum, trekked past City Hall and into Center City, before looping back around the Art Museum and extending west on Kelly Drive and back east on Martin Luther King Drive. Curtis said the course was fast and was helped by Sunday morning's near-perfect weather conditions.

Kisorio finished the race in a sprint as he nipped fellow Kenyan Sammy Kitwara by two seconds. He said he had begun training for the race about a month ago and is also preparing for New York.

"I'm very happy," Kisorio said. "The race was good, and the weather was OK."

In April, Smith was leading the Boston Marathon before injuring her leg. Smith edged Werknes Kidane of Ethiopia by 15 seconds on her road back from that injury.

"I had to push it. I was pretty much trying to drop her [Kidane] the whole time," Smith said. "It's really good, makes you run faster."

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