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Ready for the long run

Kenyan Chirlee to make marathon debut in Huntsville

Sunday, December 03, 2006

By BRUCE McLELLAN

Associate Sports Editor bruce.mclellan@htimes.com

Most runners undertaking a marathon for the first time just hope to finish.

Joseph Chirlee will hope to win.

A Kenyan who has run a 62-minute half marathon, Chirlee has confirmed that he plans to compete in his first 26.2-mile race in Saturday's 30th annual Rocket City Marathon.

"After talking to him and his manager, he's primed to run a real good marathon and wanted a flatter course, which Rocket City is, to debut for his marathon," said Craig Armstrong, coordinator of invited runners for the Rocket City race.

Chirlee, 26, finished ninth in the 13.1-mile Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run earlier this year in 62 minutes, 18 seconds. A rule of thumb for calculating a potential marathon time for an average runner is to double his half marathon time and add 10 minutes.

That would put Chirlee finishing in 2:14:36, which would threaten the course record.

"Guys like this are looking at it like 'OK, I'm ready to take the next level at a very elite level,' " Armstrong said. "With his credentials, he's definitely ready to pop a good time.

"He's a definite contender."

Running in Afghanistan: Approximately 80 military runners will compete in the Rocket City Marathon/Afghanistan, a satellite race of the Huntsville marathon.

About half of the runners will attempt a full marathon, with the other half participating as part of two- or four-runner teams in Salerno, Afghanistan.

Runners in the full marathon will complete four laps on a 6.5-mile course, according to an e-mail from 1st Lt. Sarah C. Destremps, director of the Afghanistan race.

She said they will hold their marathon on Saturday, too, but Salerno is eight hours ahead of Huntsville time so they should finish before the marathon here begins.

Suzanne Taylor, co-director of the Rocket City Marathon, said the Huntsville Track Club is supplying the same T-shirts and hats that will be awarded here to the troops running the Afghanistan race. There was no fee charged the military runners.

Defending champ not back: Sammy Nyamongo, winner of the 2005 Rocket City in 2:23:53, won't defend his title because he's not ready to leave his native Kenya to return to racing in the United States.

Garick Hill, the 2004 champ and runner-up last year, also isn't entered this year. But his brother, Kevin Hill, 29, of Nashville, is entered after placing fourth last year.

The fifth-place runner from 2005, Dewayne Miner, 35, of Vestavia Hilles, also is entered.

Two other Kenyans who will be serious contenders in the Rocket City will be Benjamin Rangu, 29, who has run a 2:19:55 marathon, and Jared Yanbokee, 25, who has run 2:23:00.

Top woman: The top women's seed also will be making a marathon debut.

Janet Cherobon, 28, from Norcross, Ga., is a former Division II All-American at Harding University. A native of Kenya, Cherobon was second among women at this year's Mercedes-Benz Cotton Row 10K in 34:50.