Kara Goucher to run USA Half Marathon Championships on June 16 in Duluth

Hometown Olympian Kara Goucher will run in Duluth for the first time in a major road race as part of the 2012 USA Half Marathon Championships on June 16. The 13.1-mile event, for men and women, is being held in conjunction with the 35th Grandma’s Marathon and 22nd Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.

Goucher, 33, a Duluth East High School graduate now living in Portland, Ore., is preparing for the 2012 Summer Games in London, competing in the marathon Aug. 5. Also competing in the half marathon along the North Shore to Canal Park will be Abdi Abdirahman, 35, of Tucson, Ariz., a three-time U.S. Olympian, also representing America in the Olympic men’s marathon Aug. 12.

In the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on January in Houston, Goucher finished in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 6 seconds and has a best of 2:24:52, while Abdirahman ran 2:09:47, his fastest marathon since a 2006 personal best of 2:08:56. Both placed third. Goucher competed in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China, at 5,000 and 10,000 meters on the track. Abdirahman was previously an Olympian at 10,000 meters in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

In making a recommendation to USA Track and Field on behalf of Grandma’s Marathon, in a bid for the half marathon championships for 2012 and 2013, Goucher wrote:

“The timing of the (U.S. Championships) couldn’t be better. It will be perfect for the Olympic Marathon and the (2013) World Championships. The potential to draw the very best American athletes will be strong. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for a run at a medal in the 2012 Olympic Games. I would love to come through Duluth in preparation for the world’s biggest stage.”

There are 158 American athletes signed up as of Thursday for the championships with a May 15 deadline to register. They’ll compete for a record prize money purse of $82,000, including $12,000 for the men’s and women’s winners. About 100 runners in each race are expected.

“We are extremely honored to have Kara and Abdi as part of the elite group coming to Duluth for this event. With the Olympic marathon races set for August, the timing is ideal,” Grandma’s Marathon executive director Scott Keenan said in a press release. “We expect to add many more quality runners in the coming weeks.”

Grandma’s Marathon has previously sponsored the 2003 and 2004 USA Women’s Half Marathon Championships, and the 1987, 1990 and 1994 USA Women’s Marathon Championships.

The race lineup for June 16 will be:

6:15 a.m., U.S. Men’s Half Marathon Championships; 6:25 a.m., U.S. Women’s Half Marathon Championships; 6:45 a.m. 22nd Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon; 7:40 a.m. Grandma’s Marathon wheelchair race; and 7:45 a.m. 36th Grandma’s Marathon.