Saturday, September 17, 2011

Curtis's Half-Marathon Debut a Test of Marathon Fitness

Former Villanova all-American to make half-marathon debut in Sunday's Philly race

By Joe Juliano
Inquirer Staff Writer
September 16, 2011

Former Villanova all-American Bobby Curtis wants to finish in 62 or 63 minutes Sunday.

The elite field announced Thursday for the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon includes four men who have covered just over 13 miles in less than one hour and a rising talent from New Zealand who set a U.S. women's all-comers record earlier this year.

But a lot of eyes in the Art Museum area for Sunday's race will be focused on former Villanova all-American, Bobby Curtis, who is making his half-marathon debut with an eye toward his first New York City Marathon in November.

This is a step up in distance for Curtis, who won the 2008 NCAA 5,000-meter championship and has run the best time for 10,000 meters by an American - 27 minutes, 24.67 seconds - this year.

He has trained for Sunday's competition all over the area, at Villanova, Valley Forge National Park, and Valley Green. In doing so, he has bumped up the odometer to around 110 miles per week.

"You have to be kind of cautious," Curtis said Thursday. "I basically started at 70 miles a week. Then over maybe three or four weeks, I worked my way up to a number where my body feels comfortable, and I'm not sore, nothing's aching, nothing's hurting. If everything's fine, then you just keep cranking it up until you reach that point of resistance."

Curtis figures that with a fast course combined with the times he has run for 10,000 meters, a finish of around 61 minutes is not out of the question. However, he admitted his sights might be a little high.

"I don't think I'm in the best shape I've ever been in," he said. "I'm just getting back into it. So I think 62 or 63 minutes would show I'm right on the pace I should be for the New York City Marathon. But the field is absolutely loaded, so I'll have to go out there and see what kind of shape I'm in."

The field is formidable, with defending champion Matthew Kisorio of Kenya having set a course record last year of 1 hour, 16 seconds. Four other African runners - Sammy Kitwara and Peter Kamais of Kenya and Deriba Merga and Tilahun Regassa of Ethiopia - have run the distance in less than an hour.

On the women's side, Kim Smith of New Zealand set an all-comers record last February in New Orleans with a time of 1:07:36.

Curtis is looking forward to a good day overall.

"I know a lot of people I train with who have done half-marathons tell me they put on a great event," he said. "There's a lot of buzz in the crowd, just good energy. The fact that it's in Philadelphia is nice, so my friends and family can come and check out the race.

"I've run on the course on the [Kelly and Martin Luther King] drives and in Fairmount Park, so it'll definitely be real familiar for me, and that's a good thing. And I haven't run a race in Philadelphia since college, so I'm looking forward to it."

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