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Out Of The Fog, Seidel Blasts 1:08:29 Half-Marathon At Atlanta Speedway

03/01/2021
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

ATLANTA (28-Feb) -- Exact one year after her surprise second place finish at the USA Olympic Marathon Team Trials here, Molly Seidel of Flagstaff, Ariz., once again laid down an impressive performance in the Atlanta area.  Running the first ever Atlanta Half-Marathon held on the grounds of the massive Atlanta Motor Speedway about 30 miles south of the city center, Seidel blasted a personal best 1:08:29 despite a fog-shrouded course and soaking humidity.  That made her the #8 USA performer of all time on a record-eligible course, and was the fastest-ever half-marathon run by a woman in the state of Georgia.

"Truthfully, it felt pretty bad," quipped a smiling Seidel whose black and white Puma uniform was completely soaked.  She continued: "Obviously, it was pretty tough conditions.  The humidity was a gut punch; it's been like zero humidity up in Flag. This is definitely different."

When the elite race started at 6:40 a.m., the temperature was an ideal 57F/14C, but it was so humid and misty that the roadway began to get wet despite the fact that it wasn't raining.  Seidel, 26, set out with two male pacemakers and Natosha Rogers of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project just two steps behind.  Rogers, 29, was still with Seidel through four miles (6.5 km), but soon had to slip back because the pace was too high.

"That was a little too hot for me today, that pace up front," Rogers told Race Results Weekly.

From there Seidel stuck close behind her main pacer, Wilkerson Given of the Atlanta Track Club, through the second half of the race.  As the pair approached the Speedway entrance before they would do two laps of the 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) NASCAR track, they only had the lead cyclist for company.  Given backed away on the final lap to allow Seidel to have the final meters to the finish to herself.

"I feel like it's a good step in the right direction" said Seidel who will compete next at the USATF 15-K Championships in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 20.  "I think it's like a 50-second PR, so I'll take it."

Although Rogers couldn't stay with Seidel, she nonetheless ran an excellent race, finishing in 1:10:49.  That's just four seconds off of the career best time she ran when she won the USATF half-marathon title in Columbus, Ohio, in 2017.

"I'd forgotten how hard that is," said Rogers after donning a surgical mask.  It was her first half-marathon in nearly four years.

Samantha Palmer, an assistant track coach at the University of Alabama, finished third in 1:11:16.  That was only nine seconds off of her personal best.  Olivia Pratt of Hansons-Brooks finished fourth in 1:13:30, and Maor Tiyouri --who lives in Boulder, Colo., and represents Israel in international competition-- was fifth in 1:14:01.

Seidel said before the race that running fast here would help her with her Tokyo Olympic Marathon preparations, giving her a better feel for the kind of pace she might be required to run in Sapporo.  She also said she was hoping to learn more about the half-marathon distance which is still relatively new to her.

"It's definitely hard," she said of the half-marathon distance.  "I try to remember that it's more like a 10-K than a marathon.  I think for me a big thing is learning to get out on a hard pace and go because that's what we're going to have at the Olympics this summer.  It's just all learning experiences."

The men's race was much closer.  In the first half, Hansons-Brooks teammates Abdisamed Abdi and Zach Panning were joined by Under Armour's Matt Llano on a sensible pace.  By the 15-K mark, Abdi and Panning had put a few steps on Llano, then slipped away from their rival on the racetrack.  In the final sprint to the finish, Abdi was able to separate from Panning and the pair finished in 1:03:59 and 1:04:00, respectively.  Llano got third in 1:04:19.

"We push each other all the time at workouts," Abdisamed said between gulps of water.  "So, we basically did that until about the last about half a mile, and then everybody was going down to the finish."

Panning was happy to set a personal best.

"I love the course," he said.  "The finish on the track is awesome.  The last 5-K was definitely a lot of fun around the track."

Llano, who had recovered from COVID late last year, was happy to have finished his first race in a year.

"It's a start," said Llano.

The half-marathon was one of three events held this weekend by the Atlanta Track Club as part of Atlanta's Marathon Weekend.  Last night, 834 athletes finished the 5-K and about another 4,000 are running the half-marathon and full marathon in waves around the racetrack grounds this morning.  This is the first, large in-person road race hosted by the Atlanta Track Club in a year.

"Runners and walkers in Metro Atlanta have been telling us how excited they are to get back to racing," said Rich Kenah, executive director of the Atlanta Track Club.  "We are just as excited to be back and providing a safe and fun atmosphere for runners of all abilities."

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