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Posted: June 24, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

Athletics: Canada's #1 ranked marathoners, Brown & Kortchaguina, to lead record field at this Sundays' Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon

VANCOUVER. June 24, 2009. Victoria's Jon Brown and Toronto's Lioudmila Kortchaguina, Canada's #1 ranked men's and women's marathoners, are confirmed to toe the start line at UBC this Sunday morning, in front of a record field of more than 4,200. The race then follows one of the world's most scenic routes from Thunderbird Arena, along Marine Drive past Spanish Banks, Kits Beach, over the Burrard Bridge and down into Stanley Park. Another 800 participants, many of whom are charity runners, are expected in the accompanying 5K that Starts and Finishes by the Stanley Park Fish House. Combined, both events will set a fundraising record of over $300,000 this year, raised for 15 different, local charities in the Scotiabank Group Charity Challenge. The event is stop #5 in the prestigious Canada Running Series.

The race will provide one of Jon Brown's final tune ups as he prepares to lead Canada's men's marathon squad in the IAAF World Championships in Berlin in August. This will be the first time in a long time that Canada has sent a marathon team to the Worlds, and Berlin will be the first Canadian vest for the soft spoken but fiercely determined Welshman who moved to Victoria via Yorkshire in 1996. Although the 38-year-old "Brownie" moved to Victoria with his family in '96, he continued to run for his native Great Britain, finishing an outstanding 4th in the Olympic Marathons in both 2000 and 2004. In Sydney he missed bronze by 7 seconds and in Athens by 15 seconds! He won Scotia Vancouver Half in June '04 [63:53] as his final preparation for Athens. He then became a Canadian citizen in June 2005, and finally switched his athletic allegiance in January 2008. With a 2:09:31 PR [London 2005], and a 2:12 run at Japan's world-famous Fukuoka Marathon last December, Brown brings a level of international class and experience to the Canadian marathon scene that has been absent for a long time. It also comes at an opportune time for Canada, to provide leadership and mentoring, for our excellent, new crop of young, up-and-coming marathoners. Going into Sunday's race, Brown is currently sitting in 2nd place in the Canada Running Series 2009 standings [96 points], following convincing victories at Harry's Spring Run Off Vancouver and Toronto 8Ks in March and early April; plus a 6th place finish at the Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal [66:44], the Canadian Half marathon Championships in late April.

Supported by one of the up-and-comers who he coaches in Victoria, Dave Jackson, Brown can expect one of the great East-West battles that have become an annual treat at the Scotia Vancouver Half. Giitah Macharia of Toronto desperately needs a good run. The race winner in 2005 [64:55] and 2006 [64:29], he was crowned Canadian Men's Marathon Champ at Ottawa in May '08 [2:16:55], but has run poorly since; he needs to run under 65 minutes on Sunday to "prove fitness" and join Brownie on the Canadian team for Berlin. Macharia will be coming to Vancouver directly from altitude training in Albuquerque for this last-ditch effort. Josephat Ongeri, a Kenyan now settled in Milton, Ontario, and current CRS'09 standings leader [105 points], is also certain to push Brown. Josephat was 2nd overall at last year's Scotia Half in 65:14, and beat Brownie by more than a minute in Montreal, where he ran 65:05. He also ran 2:16:45 at Ottawa '08 to edge Macharia by 10 seconds over the 42km. Representing Quebec, Montreal's Bagdad Rachem should also be in that lead pack, to add variety, and further underscore that the Scotia Vancouver Half is truly a Canada-wide showcase. A 4th place finisher in 2005 [65:48], Rachem is coming off a strong outing at the Sporting Life 10K [CRS #4] on May 3rd where he clocked an impressive 29:36 behind Ongeri's 28:49.

The Women's race also promises an enthralling East-West challenge, where Canadian Olympian, Lisa Harvey will do battle with Toronto's Lioudmila Kortchaguina and Josiane Aboungono. Harvey, who finished 2nd overall in the 2008 and 2007 editions of the race, will definitely be up against it as a returning-to-top-form Kortchaguina looks for revenge. Harvey got the better of the match in '07, when Kortchaguina ran a disappointing 77:11 for 3rd place overall. Lioudmila had won the Scotia Vancouver Half in 2003, '04, and '05. In '03 she ran a world-class 70:50 that remains her PR for the distance. Through 2007 and ''08 she struggled with a hip injury that deprived her of a place on the Canadian team for the Beijing Olympics. Then, as rumours swirled that her career might be over, she bounced back with a tremendous 2:30:43 in Houston in January of this year, to take 3rd place overall. She then followed this up with a 2nd place finish in Ottawa last month in 2:32:10 that also earned her the Canadian Women's Marathon Championship crown. Denied that illusive Canadian vest in Berlin, because Canada doesn't have 5 women who have make the IAAF standard necessary to send a team, Lioudmila will have something to prove on Sunday. A strong performance in Vancouver could also provide an important springboard for summer training and a possible headliner appearance for her at September's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. So watch for the sparks to fly all the way along Spanish Banks, through Kits down to Stanley Park this Sunday!

There's still time to book your place on the Start line, to join the excitement in the 11th Anniversary Scotiabank Vancouver Half and accompanying 5K fun run, and do some last-minute fundraising. Details, including the course map showing entertainment centres and best locations for spectators are at www.vancouverhalf.com.

For all Canada Running Series events see www.canadarunningseries.com.

Current CRS '09 Standings are at www.canadarunningseries.com.

Photos: (L):Lioudmila Kortchaguina immediately after her CDN Championship victory in Ottawa '09     (R):Jon Brown at Harry's Spring Run Off Vancouver 8K


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