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Posted: July 27, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

(RWire) Athletics: Olympic Silver Medalist, Defending Champs Return to CIGNA Falmouth Road Race

Stellar field expected for 37th New England summer classic; prize purse exceeds $90,000

FALMOUTH, Mass. - (July 23, 2009) - Defending champions Tadese Tola of Ethiopia and Edith Masai of Kenya will join a strong field of world class athletes in the 37th CIGNA Falmouth Road Race on Sunday, August 9. Tola will be challenged by two-time Falmouth runner-up and 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi as well as several other professional runners from around the world as they race along Martha's Vineyard Sound from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights.

"Tola defeated a very strong men's field last year to become Falmouth's first Ethiopian winner, while 41-year-old Masai put on a memorable show to defeat a strong group of much younger women," said John Carroll, the race's co-director and elite athlete coordinator. "This year we have another excellent field featuring some very talented athletes who would like to win Falmouth."

Tola has had several impressive victories over the past year, including the 2008 New York City Half-Marathon and the Healthy Kidney 10K in Central Park, N.Y., with a course record 27:48.

Last year at Falmouth, Keflezighi, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., shadowed Tola for six miles before finishing in second place. It was the second straight year that Keflezighi was runner-up in Falmouth, and the best finish, along with his 2007 effort, by an American man since Ed Eyestone was second in 1990.

In winning the silver medal for the United States in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, he became the first American man to medal in the event since Frank Shorter took the silver in 1976. Keflezighi, 34, is also the U.S. record holder for 10,000 meters at 27:13.98 and has won 18 USA titles.

"I had a great time in Falmouth last summer. Everyone treated me so well and I'm excited to come back," said Keflezighi. "I'm running pretty well and looking forward to racing."

Also in the men's professional field will be Edward Muge of Kenya, who led for more than six miles in the 2008 race until he was forced to stop due to heat exhaustion. His countryman, Boaz Cheboiywo, third last year, is also entered and has said he is coming here to win.

Other men's contenders include U.S. Olympian Jorge Torres of Boulder, Colo., and last year's second American and sixth overall, James Carney of Longmont, Colo. Moroccan Ridouane Harroufi, two-time Bolder Boulder 10K champion and winner of the recent Boilermaker 15K in Utica, N.Y., is also expected to run well, along with former Falmouth champions Gilbert Okari and James Koskei; Samuel Ndereba of Kenya, who was fourth last year; and world class marathoners Felix and Richard Limo, running their first Falmouth. Both men have run under 2:07 for the 26.2-mile distance.

On the woman's side, the ageless Masai will face her stiffest challenge from women half her age. Mamita Daska of Ethiopia, fourth last year, will give a strong run against the defending champion. Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, who was second in the recent Crazy 8s in Kingsport, Tenn., is also expecting to run well.

Other top challengers will include U.S. Olympians Kate O'Neill, Palo Alto, Calif., 11th in 2008; two-time Falmouth winner and four-time Olympian Colleen De Reuck from Boulder, Colo. and two-time Olympian Elva Dryer of Gunnison. Colo. Two other strong U.S. women are Renee Metivier Baillie, Flagstaff, Ariz., fifth last year, who recently ran a personal record 5000 meters in Liege, Belgium; and Rebecca Donaghue, State College, Penn., 10th in 2008, who also set a personal best at the same 5000 in Liege.

The famed seven mile course begins in the quaint village of Woods Hole, rolls past the spectacular Nobska Lighthouse and continues along Martha's Vineyard Sound to finish at the ball field in Falmouth Heights.

The overall race champions will receive $10,000 each. The first U.S. man and woman will earn $5000 each. In all, more than $90,000 in prize money will be awarded. The top 10 U.S. citizens will win $29,600 for their efforts. A $1000 bonus also is available for any runner who breaks an Open course record (31:08 and 35:02).

The race was founded in 1973 by Tommy Leonard after watching Frank Shorter win the 1972 Olympic Marathon. Leonard was honored as Citizen of the Year by the towns of Holyoke and Falmouth this spring. He also received the Boston Athletic Association's Patriot Award at ceremonies during the week before the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Olympic gold and silver medalist Frank Shorter will be in Falmouth to run, along with gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson and Olympian Bill Rodgers.

This will be CIGNA's fourth year as the title sponsor. The Philadelphia-based employee benefits company has extended its commitment to the race through 2010.

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