Leonard Korir the defending champion leads an impressive men’s field into Sunday’s USATF Half Marathon Championships in Pittsburgh, while Olympic triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen makes her debut over the 13.1 mile distance and finds plenty of competition on the women’s side.
The USATF Half Marathon Championships, hosted by the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon, are the fourth stop on the 2017 USATF Running Circuit. Race videos, results, post-race interviews and photos will be available shortly after the race on USATF.
Korir, who won the USATF Cross Country Championships and USATF 15 km Championships earlier this season, leads the current USATF Running Circuit standings with a whopping 45 points, 21 points ahead of current second place runner Martin Hehir. While Korir did not finish at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in late March, the defending champion will look to get back to the top of the podium in Pittsburgh.
Looking to get his 2018 season going, while challenging Korir for victory, is three-time USATF Cross Country champion Chris Derrick. The Bowerman Track Club standout has had an up and down past couple years while dealing with injury, but a good block of training of late, including top eight finishes at the United Airlines NYC Half and Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile show he is in fine form.
The trio of Parker Stinson, George Alex and Matt Llano are also all capable of a top three challenge. Stinson in particular is having a fine 2018 season. The 26-year old has already run three half marathons this year, finishing each between 63:35-63:44, while he also placed second in the 10,000m at the Mt. SAC Relays last month.
For Alex, he’s raced sparingly in 2018, most recently placing fifth at the SACTOWN Run in early April, a race where Llano took third. Alex holds a half marathon best of 62:54, fourth fastest in the field, while Llano holds the third fastest in 61:47, sitting only behind Derrick’s 61:12 and Korir’s 59:52.
One runner to quietly keep an eye on is Hudson Elite runner Sid Vaughn Jr. Vaughn Jr. edged out Stinson in the 10,000m at the Mt. SAC Relays, finishing a half step ahead for the win, while also besting a strong field, including Alex, Llano and others at the SACTOWN Run last month. The 23-year old former University of Georgia runner continues to improve and impress.
Other notable entries include Korir’s U.S. Army teammate Samuel Kosegei, who placed fifth at the USATF Marathon Championships in December, ZAP Fitness teammates Andrew Colley and Johnny Crain, as well as sub-64 minute half marathon runners Ben Payne and Roots Running Project teammates Willie Milam and Wade Meddles.
Unlike the experience Korir brings to the roads, Jorgensen continues to make her transition from professional triathlete to professional distance runner and gives the half marathon distance a go Sunday. Jorgensen has shown some tremendous speed on the track, having run 15:15 for 5000m indoors, finishing only behind teammate Emily Infeld, while coming back to run 31:55 for 10,000m at the Stanford Invitational just over a month ago – where she beat NCAA champion Karissa Schweizer among others.
While Jorgensen is unfamiliar with the half marathon distance, the Bowerman Track Club runner did compete at the USATF 10 Mile Championships in 2016, where she placed third, coming back to place 14th at the New York City Marathon a month later.
Challenging Jorgensen up front are experienced veterans Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sara Hall. Tuliamuk, the two-time defending USATF Running Circuit overall champion, won four USATF Running Circuit races in 2017. While the former Wichita State standout finished third in last year’s USATF Half Marathon Championships, she’s ready to challenge for yet another win on the circuit.
For Hall, the California-based runner is in a similar situation, hoping to use Sunday’s race to prove she’s back to being a consistent contender on the USATF Running Circuit. Hall won both the USATF Marathon and USATF 10 Mile Championships in 2017, while finishing second behind Tuliamuk in the overall circuit standings (123-85 points). Both Tuliamuk (69:16) and Hall (69:37) hold personal bests under 70 minutes.