Ryan Hall leads best-ever elite field at L.A. Marathon

January, 26, 2015
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Ryan HallAP Photo/Elise AmendolaRyan Hall is the biggest name in a fast field for the Los Angeles Marathon.
The American elite field at the 2015 Asics L.A. Marathon will be the largest in 30 year history of the race as the hosts of the 2015 United States Track and Field Marathon Championships. Athletes also will test the course and the city as part of their own preparation for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2016, also to be held in Los Angeles.

“This is shaping up to be one of the most competitive fields in the history of the marathon,” LA Marathon CEO Tracey Russell said. “On both a national and international level, the breadth of talent is at an all-time high to set the stage for a historic race.”

Ryan Hall, the fastest American marathoner in history with his 2:04:58 at the windy 2011 Boston Marathon, was the first elite athlete announced for the year’s race. He will be joined by his wife Sara Hall, making her marathon debut.

After his 2:17:43 debut at the Chicago Marathon, Northern Arizona Elite runner Matt Llano looks to rebound in his second crack at the 26.2 mile distance. He will run the 2015 Houston Half Marathon in preparation for the race. His 61:47 personal best in the half marathon was set there last year.

“There's a big learning curve with a race that long, and even though I received advice from some of the world's top marathoners before Chicago, there's something to be said for lessons that resonate better through experience,” Llano told ESPN.com. “I've been channeling those lessons I learned in Chicago to optimize my training and set myself up for achieving the goals I have for 2015.”

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Track standout Diego Estrada eyeing longer distances, U.S. team berth

January, 21, 2015
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Diego Estrada Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsDiego Estrada has gone from competing for national titles to chasing a spot on Team USA.
Olympian Diego Estrada (Asics) won last weekend's Aramco Houston Half-Marathon in 60:51, which is tied for seventh on the all-time U.S. list.

The race was his first serious attempt at the 13.1-mile distance, and the former Northern Arizona track star is showing flashes of potential for the full marathon. We caught up with Estrada after he discussed the potential move up in distance with his coach.

Over the years, spectators have grown accustomed to seeing you take races out hard. What went through your mind while executing the same tactic in Houston?

I really wasn’t thinking much. That was one of the game plans and I decided early on to go with Plan B by going to the front. I was mentally prepared for it.

What was Plan A?

Plan A was that the guys would take it out in a hot pace and I would sit there as long as I could before taking over. I had a Plan C where I would wait until the last 200 meters to kick.

Now, after looking at the time, some might think "Wow, this guy might really be able to exceed in the marathon." What are your thoughts on the marathon?

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By the numbers: Boston Marathon elite field

January, 20, 2015
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Lelisa Desisa, Buzunesh Deba Getty ImagesLelisa Desisa and Buzunesh Deba are among the fastest elite runners in the Boston Marathon field.
Race organizers have completed the elite athlete fields for the 119th running of the Boston Marathon on April 20. Five previous champions will return to the start line in Hopkinton with the hope of being the first across the finish line on Boylston Street.

“During the last three decades, unpredictable and compelling races have played out on the streets from Hopkinton to Boston, as our American and international athletes push themselves to win here, more than any other race they will contest,” race director Tom Grilk said in a news release. “We look forward to the spring and watching new stories unfold in these athletes’ quest to capture the olive wreath at the finish on Boylston Street.”

The men’s field includes former world record holder Patrick Makau, 2013 champion Lelisa Desisa and 2012 champion Wesley Korir as the some of the threats to 2014 champion Meb Keflezighi’s title defense. World half-marathon record holder Zersenay Tadese makes his Boston debut, hoping to finally figure out the full marathon distance.

The women’s field is the fastest ever with 10 runners under 2:23. Mare Dibaba leads the charge after setting a personal best of 2:19:52 at the 2015 Xiamen Marathon. Buzunesh Deba, runner-up in 2014, is the second woman in the field under 2:20. Two-time Berlin Marathon Champion Aberu Kebede is also in the Boston field, and has run 11 races under 2:28 since 2010.

2012 champion Sharon Cherop and 2011 Caroline Kilel will also take part, and American Shalane Flanagan will have her hands full once again as she makes her third attempt at winning her hometown race.

The full field of elites have won 85 marathons around the world. Here’s a look at the group by the numbers:

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Rita JeptooEssdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesIt could be three months before Rita Jeptoo learns the outcome of her hearing with Athletics Kenya.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenyan marathoner Rita Jeptoo will have to wait up to three more months to learn the outcome of the hearing into her positive doping test.

Athletics Kenya requested more time for further investigation after the three-time Boston Marathon champion and two-time Chicago Marathon winner appeared at a hearing Thursday. Jeptoo could face a ban of two or four years if found guilty of doping.

Jeptoo is the biggest name among several Kenyan athletes who have failed drug tests in recent years.

She tested positive for the blood-booster EPO in an out-of-competition test conducted last September before she went on to defend her Chicago title the following month. Both the "A" and "B" samples were positive.

Jeptoo's estranged partner, Noah Busiendich, Italian manager Federico Rosa and Italian coach Claudio Berardelli also appeared before the disciplinary commission.

"This is a confidential hearing so we may not be able to give a lot of information," Athletics Kenya chief executive Isaac Mwangi said. "We will be asking further direction from IAAF then we will communicate once we are through.

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By The Numbers: Paula Radcliffe returns to London for final career marathon

January, 14, 2015
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Paula RadcliffeMichael Steele/Getty ImagesPaula Radcliffe will take one final run across Tower Bridge during the London Marathon.
After years of trying to mount a comeback from a foot injury, women's marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe will finally return, running April’s London Marathon as the final race of her career.

The 41-year-old Radcliffe set the world record of 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds in London in 2003, and last competed in at the 2011 Berlin Marathon.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Paula has chosen London for her final marathon and we know the British crowds will be out in force to celebrate her extraordinary career,” race director Hugh Brasher said in a news release.

Radcliffe was not included in the list of elite athletes released by race organizers, and will announce her intentions for the race on Jan. 30. She told ESPN.com in November that she thought about running the New York City Marathon in a non-competitive capacity, so she might not be racing for the victory in London.

Radcliffe returned to racing with a third-place finish at the Worcester City 10K race last September. Her previous race was a 2012 half-marathon in Vienna before a foot injury kept her from competing at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Among the other elite women announced for London are 2014 champion Edna Kiplagat and runner-up Florence Kiplagat; 2014 New York City Marathon champion Mary Keitany, seeking her third London victory (something accomplished by only Radcliffe and two others); and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo, who is aiming for redemption after dropping out of last year’s race around the 25K mark.

Here’s a look at Paula Radcliffe and recent marathon history by the numbers:

10 -- Number of times women have run under 2:19 since Radcliffe’s last marathon, in Berlin in 2011. She has accomplished the feat four times in her career.

2 -- Number of times the men’s marathon world record has been broken since the 2011 Berlin Marathon.

3 -- Victories in London by Radcliffe. Her winning times are the first (2:15:25, 2003), third (2:17:42, 2005) and sixth (2:18:56, 2002) fastest times in history.

3:12 -- Difference between the fastest marathon run during Radcliffe’s absence (Mary Keitany’s 2012 London victory) and her 2:15:25 record run in '03.

5:29 -- Difference between the personal best (2:21:14) of Shalane Flanagan, currently the top American female marathoner, and Radcliffe's record. Some perspective on how fast and dominant Radcliffe was when healthy.

10 -- Years since Radcliffe last ran the London Marathon, in a winning time of 2:17:42 in '05.

10 -- Months difference in age between between 41-year-old Deena Kastor (Feb. 14, 1973) and Radcliffe (Dec. 17, 1973). Kastor ran 2:33:18 in windy and cold conditions at the New York City Marathon in November.

14 --Place by Emma Stepto at the 2014 London Marathon at the age of 44.

1,309 -- Number of days between Radcliffe’s finish in Berlin and her April 26 start in London.