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Georgia Runners Win Savannah Marathon

Savannah Marathon

Savannah Marathon

SAVANNAH, Ga. – (November 5, 2011) – After selling out in mid-August, the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon & ½ Marathon debuted as the largest running block party in Georgia on Saturday morning. Nathan O’Connell, a 20-year-old student at Kennesaw State, won the marathon in 2 hours, 29 minutes and 5 seconds. It was only the second marathon for O’Connell, who trains with the Atlanta Track Club, as he bettered his time by 27 minutes running on a solo tour through the streets of Savannah.

“It was definitely hard mentally to push myself along, I just wanted to break 2:30,” said O’Connell, who separated himself from the field after the opening mile to finish five minutes ahead of his closest competitor. “The cyclist was awesome. It definitely takes a lot mentally to run 26 miles by myself and I had no clue I could win it, this is crazy and it’s pretty cool. I’m ecstatic right now.”

Rome’s Jill Horst won the women’s full marathon in 2:45:12, making for an all-Georgia sweep and qualifying her for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January in Houston. Host was in second place until mile 23, but pushed through the headwind on the Truman Parkway to run a 2 minute personal best.

“I set a goal in 1999 to qualify for the trials and it took me 12 years,” said Horst, 33, who played collegiate soccer nearby at Furman University in South Carolina. “I know I’m not the most talented runner and it doesn’t take most women 12 years to qualify, but I work hard and I like to stick with it until I get the goal. I can move on with my life now. I was looking for Paula Deen the whole time. I’m a big fan of Paula Deen and I wanted to see her.”

A pair of African runners won the half-marathon on Saturday, with Kenyan-born Reuben Mwei of Acworth, Georgia blowing away the field. Mwei, 25, who ran at Division II Adams State in Colorado, ran a blistering 4:42 first mile and never looked back, finishing with a personal best of 1:04:08 to beat runner-up Kevin Castille of Lafayette, La. (1:07:02) by nearly three minutes.

In the women’s 13.1 mile race, Mula Seboka, 28, of Ethiopia won easily in 1:13:44 to outdistance Stephanie Pezzullo of Flagstaff, Ariz. Pezzullo’s time of 1:14:33 also qualified her for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, which rolled into Savannah for the first time this weekend, began in San Diego in 1998, debuting as the first race series to create a festive and engaging atmosphere for the fleet footed and the back of the pack.

“The first Rock ‘n’ Roll was an opportunity for us to help people understand that road races are for everyone, not just Olympians,” said Tracy Sundlun, SVP of Competitor Group, organizer of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. “Especially when you look at this weekend and an inaugural running event that has sold out months in advance, and is being held the same weekend as one of the most iconic races in our industry, you can see that the market for these leisure, fun-loving events is booming.”

The unique sights and sounds of live, local bands played along every mile of the course, along with enthusiastic cheerleaders and spectators motivating runners on a cool Saturday morning.

The 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon & ½ Marathon welcomed 18,771 finishers to the city with 14,049 completing the 13.1 mile half-marathon event. With those totals, Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah ranks 4th among the largest inaugural road races (annual) and the half-marathon is the largest 13.1 mile debut in world history.

The race began at 7:30am on Bay St. in downtown Savannah and ended with a spectacular finish line festival in historic Forsyth Park and a free headliner concert featuring Carolina Liar.

“The community of Savannah has welcomed us with open arms,” added Sundlun. “Even with the challenges that come with launching a new Rock ‘n’ Roll event, Savannah city officials and partners have been with us every step of the way to ensure the event ran as smoothly as possible. We can’t wait to see what future years of our partnership will bring.”

The second Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon & ½ Marathon is scheduled for Saturday, November 3, 2012.

Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon
Savannah, GA, Saturday, November 5, 2011

1) Nathan O’Connell, 20, Kennesaw, GA, 2:29:05, $1000
2) Chris Lake, 24, Tallahassee, FL, 2:34:02, $500
3) Ben Brown, 30, Savannah, GA, 2:36:13, $250

1) Jill Horst, 33, Marietta, GA, 2:45:12, $1000
2) Tiffany Chartier, 33, Thorton, CO, 2:46:30, $500
3) Beth Woodward, 36, Orrville, OH, 2:52:56, $250

Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah ½ Marathon
1) Ruben Mwei (KEN), 25, Acworth, GA, 1:04:08, $1000
2) Kevin Castille, 39, Lafayette, LA, 1:07:02, $500
3) John Compton, 26, Charlotte, NC, 1:08:40, $250

1) Mula Seboka, 28, Ethiopia, 1:13:44, $1000
2) Stephanie Pezzullo, 29, Flagstaff, AZ, 1:14:33, $500
3) Alana Hadley, 14, Charlotte, NC, 1:17:01

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