U.S. Olympic team member Desiree Linden and four-time Olympian and 2012 USATF Half Marathon Championship winner Abdi Abdirahman are among the big names in American long-distance running on the early entry list for the 2016 USATF Half Marathon Championships on April 30 in Columbus
Linden, 32, a two-time Olympian, has been among the biggest stars in U.S. road racing since she finished second at the 2011 Boston Marathon, where she came within two seconds of being the first American to win in Boston since 1985.
Linden represented the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, but dropped out of the Olympic Marathon early due to a stress fracture in her femur. Linden returned to the road in 2013, where she finished second in the USATF Half Marathon Championships in 1:11:26 in Duluth, Minn.
In February, Linden qualified for the Summer Olympics in Rio with a second-place finish at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials behind Amy Cragg, her former teammate at Arizona State University. Linden's husband, Ryan, is also an elite endurance athlete and has qualified for the 2016 Ironman World Championships.
Abdirahman, who has competed in the past four Summer Olympics, won the 2012 USATF Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, Minn. A Somalia native who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, Abdirahman competed in the 10,000 meters for the U.S. at the Summer Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008 and was on the Olympic Marathon team at the Summer Olympics in London in 2012.
Abdiraham hoped to earn a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team at the Marathon Trials in February, but had to pull out due to injury. He is now considering attempting to make the U.S. team in the 10,000 meters at the Track & Field Trials in July.
Nick Arciniaga, 32, of Flagstaff, Ariz., has been a stalwart on the U.S. road racing scene since transitioning to long-distance running after a successful career as a 5K specialist at Cal State Fullerton. Arciniaga's biggest win came in 2013 when he won the USA Marathon Championships in 2:13:11 when the event was held in conjunction with the Twin Cities Marathon. Arciniaga also made noise when he finished seventh at the 2014 Boston Marathon in 2:11:47, good for second among U.S. finishers behind winner Meb Keflezighi. He was also 10th at the 2014 New York City Marathon. Arciniaga won the 2015 OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon in 1:05:56 when he appeared in Columbus to help promote the city's hosting of the USA Half Marathon Championships in 2016 and 2017.
Shadrack Biwott, 30, of Mammonth Lakes, Calif., has been a regular podium-finisher on the USATF Running Circuit since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2012. Biwott enters the 2016 USATF Half Marathon Championships as a serious threat to win his first national title. Biwott finished second at the 2013 USA Half Marathon Championships in Duluth in 1:02:24 en route to the USATF Running Circuit title. That same year Biwott also finished in the top three in the 10K, 12K, 20K and marathon national championships. In 2014, Biwott posted a 1:01:56 to finish seventh at the USATF Half Marathon Championships in Houston. Biwott is a former Kenyan high-school 1,500-meters champion who moved to the United States to live with his uncle, professional runner Simon Sawe, in Alburquerque, N.M. before becoming a four-time All-American at the University or Oregon.
A native of Van Wert, Ohio, who ran cross country at Ohio University, Craig Leon, 32, has been a steady performer in U.S. road racing since posting an Olympic Marathon Trials-qualifying time of 2:18:29 at the 2010 USA Marathon Championships. The Eugene, Ore., resident had a career year in 2015 when he made his international debut with a fifth-place finish in the Pan American Games Marathon in Toronto and was eighth in the New York City Marathon in 2:16:16. Leon also won the Correcaminos Half Marathon last year in 1:05:41. Leon won the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon in 2014 in 1:09:56 and was runner-up to Nick Arciniaga in 2015. Leon has competed in the USATF Half Marathon Championships four times. His best finish was 19th in 1:04:01 in Duluth in 2013.
Janet Bawcom, 37, of Rome, Ga., has been one of the nation's top long-distance runners since she became eligible to compete for the United States in 2011. A native of Kenya, Bawcom came to the U.S. to run track at Harding University in Arkansas, where she won three Division II national championships and was an eight-time All-American. Bawcom represented the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where she placed 12th in the 10,000 meters. Bawcom has won seven national road titles, including the USA 10 Mile Championships in 2013 and 2014. Bawcom finished a career-best third at the 2015 USATF Half Marathon Championships in Houston in 1:10:46 and was fifth in 2:31:14 at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles.
Brianne Nelson, 35, enters the 2016 USATF Half Marathon Championships as a serious threat to win after finishing second at the 2015 USATF Half Marathon Championships in Houston in a personal-best 1:10:16, 32 seconds behind winner Kim Conley. Nelson, who competed in cross country at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., has steadily become a force in U.S. road racing since returning to competition after her second daughter was born in 2010. In 2015, the Golden, Colo., resident finished second on the USATF Running Circuit, adding third-place finishes at the marathon and USA 20K national championships to her second-place finish in Houston. Her $67,716 in earnings in 2015 was second only to Molly Huddle, who pocketed $151,700.