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Lel, Gebremariam Will Rock New Orleans

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Former Los Angeles Marathon champion and 2:04 marathoner Markos Geneti of Ethiopia is also part of Sunday’s star-studded field. - NEW ORLEANS – This Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon & Half Marathon will showcase one of the most dynamic half-marathon fields ever assembled on American soil. Double Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 meter gold medalist Mo Farah headlines the men’s race, but he’ll face very strong competition on the fast and flat course.

Farah is coming into Sunday’s race having just run 7:42 to win the 3,000 meters indoors on Saturday at the British Grand Prix in Birmingham. His half-marathon personal best is 1:00:23, the fastest time ever run by a Briton, set in winning the 2011 NYC Half Marathon.

In order to get the victory in New Orleans, Farah will have to stave off a formidable field of contenders, including Kenyan Martin Lel, a three-time champion of the London Marathon and winner of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon in 2010. Lel, a former world half-marathon champion most recently won the Vodafone Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Half Marathon last fall in 1:01:28. He holds the event record in New Orleans at 1:01:07.

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In addition to Lel, the star-studded men’s field includes Ethiopia’s Gebre Gebremariam, the 2010 ING New York City Marathon champion who finished second to Farah at the NYC Half in 2011; Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti, who won the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon and owns a marathon PR of 2:04:54, set last year in Dubai where he finished third; Kenya’s Cybrian Kotut, a 21-year-old who finished fourth at Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon last year with a time of 1:02:25; and Scott Overall of Great Britain, who owns a half-marathon PR of 1:01:25 and is prepping for the Virgin London Marathon in April.

“We’re delighted to be a part of Mo’s first race in the United States since the London Olympics,” said Matthew Turnbull, elite athlete manager of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. “It’s certainly not going to be a parade for Mo, as we have some great talent lined up to take him on. He’s going to have to run his best to win and I personally can’t wait to see the outcome.”{UNIVERSAL

The top American contender in the men’s field is 28-year-old Brett Gotcher of Flagstaff, Arizona. Gotcher owns a marathon PR of 2:10:36 from 2010, which is the fourth-fastest debut in U.S. history. He won the 2009 U.S. 20K championships and will look to improve his half-marathon best (1:02:09) this weekend.

Other Americans in the field include 2011 New Orleans winner Josphat Boit (1:03:56), two-time Olympic Trials qualifier Michael Reneau (1:03:38), Hansons-Brooks athletes Luke Humphrey (1:03:57), Robert Scribner (1:04:51) and C. Fred Joslyn (1:04:27), winner of the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon.

The power-packed women’s field will be led by Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, one of the most decorated female runners of all time, along with U.S. Olympic marathoners Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan, former world half-marathon champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia, and 2012 Boston Marathon runner-up Jemima Jelegat of Kenya.

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“It’s a great coup for Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans to have both Olympic 5,000m champions race,” added Turnbull. “Meseret proved what a true competitor she is claiming that second Olympic gold medal in London. I know she is looking forward to testing herself over the super fast course in New Orleans and I’m expecting something special from her this weekend. Of course, she won’t have things all her own way with USA’s best out there challenging her as part of their build up to Boston Marathon.”

New Orleans has a history for record road performances, and a number of marks will be in jeopardy this weekend. In addition to Lel’s event record, the women’s mark of 1:07:36 was set by New Zealand’s Kim Smith in 2011. The United States all-comers records are 58:46 for men and 1:07:11 for women, which were both run at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2011.