THE WOODLANDS, Texas –– More than 50 elite athletes, including four 2012 United States Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers, will lead more than 6,800 participants from 38 states, nine countries and about 170 Texas cities at the My Fit Foods The Woodlands Marathon on Saturday, March 3 near the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
The St. Luke's The Woodlands Half Marathon, the Fleet Feet Sports 5K and the Pathfinder Pediatric 2K Fun Run will also be contested as part of the event.
Elite marathoners and half marathoners will begin at 6:45 a.m.
Marathoners and Fidelity Investments Marathon Relay participants will start two minutes later with half marathon and 5K runners to follow at 7 a.m.
The Pathfinder Pediatric Home Care 2K Fun Run will start at 1:00 p.m.
All races will finish immediately south of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion along The Woodlands Waterway ®.
The marathon, which returns to The Woodlands after a 19-year absence, could very well be won by a pair of athletes sponsored by MarathonGuide.com.
In the men's race, teammates Jeffrey Eggleston, 26, of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Michael Wardian, 37, of Arlington, Virginia will try to hold off Kenyan Stephen Tanui, 29, a late entry to the elite field, while a third teammate, Warr Acres, Oklahoma's Camille Herron, 30, who set a personal-best 2:37:14 at January's United States Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, is the prohibitive favorite over Salt Lake City's Allie Scott, 24, and Robertsdale, Alabama's Rebecca Massie, 33.
Eggleston, who sports a marathon PR of 2:13:12 where he led Wardian by more than four minutes at last summer's Grandma's Marathon, tweeted recently that he's "glad to be healed up and racing again" after missing the Trials and dropping after 30 kilometers at late October's Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Meanwhile, Wardian returns to the outskirts of the Bayou City where he bested his world record of combined marathon times on two consecutive days - a 2:21:50 during the Olympic Trials and a 2:31:17 16th place overall showing the following day during the Chevron Houston Marathon. He also won the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama more than two weeks ago in 2:22:43.
Tanui was fifth overall in early January at the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson where he ran the hilly course in 2:26:59.
Scott, a three-time winner of the Top of Utah Marathon and the 2009 Deseret News Marathon Champion, ran the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in January in 1:22:29 while Massie, a winner of four marathons herself, set a personal best at the Houston Marathon the same day in 3:00:59.
The St. Luke's The Woodlands Half Marathon will feature Austin's David Fuentes, 25, and Hidalgo's Sammy Kiplagat, 38, both of whom are coming off recent second-place finishes in the Livestrong Austin Half Marathon and Port Isabel Longest Causeway 10K, respectively.
Fuentes, who won the San Antonio Rock 'N' Roll Marathon in November, covered the 13.1-mile distance two weeks ago in 1:07:57 while Kiplagat was 31:32 in south Texas, beating Tanui to the line by more than a minute.
The Colony, Texas triathlete William Rittter, 26, and last year's Cowtown Marathon champion Joe Beisner, 39, from Irving, will get their 2012 racing seasons kicked off in challenging the field for third.
Lake Tapps, Washington's Mattie Suver, 24, is the women's favorite after winning last Saturday's ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run 10K in Houston with a time of 35 minutes, 11 seconds.
While Suver, like Herron, ran in January's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials where she finished in 2:50:23, she'll be pushed by San Antonio's Priscilla Alderete, 31, and Houston's Diana Hirst, 37.
Alderete was fifth in 1:20:56 at late January's 3M Half Marathon in Austin while Hirst was 16th in a deep Aramco Half Marathon field in Houston two weeks earlier, posting a time of 1:22-even.
Runners will be competing for up to $20,000 in prize money. Winners of the marathon and half marathon will take home $2,500 and $1,500, respectively.
Each marathon winner will also receive a Champion's Ring, specially designed by Thomas Markle Jewelers.
For more information, please visit the event website at http://www.thewoodlandsmarathon.com/.
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