The New York Road Runners are paying travel and lodging expenses for 13-year-old Alana Hadley to compete this Saturday in the NYRR New York Mini 10K, an all-women's race in Central Park with an announced field that will boast 11 Olympians.
This will be the Charlotte middle-schooler's first race against world-class competition. Alana has already raced at the collegiate level -- at the Wake Forest Open in March, when she finished second in the 5,000 meters with a personal-best time of 17:09.38. She has a 10K personal best of 38:08.
"And 3) Probably the biggest factor is that the NYRR and Mary Wittenberg [its president and CEO] are really championing youth running programs as a way to combat childhood obesity. They have over 100,000 kids in NYRR-sponsored programs currently, and what better way to provide them with a role model than to bring in a kid who can actually run with some of the better women around -- and who absolutely loves the sport. Makes sense for everyone."
Top headliners for the New York Mini 10K are four-time Mini champion Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands; two-time Olympic 10,000-meter gold medalist Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia, who is making her first trip back to New York City since her victory here at the ING New York City Marathon last November; and 2009 10,000-meter world champion Linet Masai of Kenya. [Great Britain's Paula Radcliffe and U.S. star Kara Goucher will be running, but not competing, as they are both in their fifth month of pregnancy.]
Mark Hadley believes a Top 15-30 finish is realistic for his daughter.
"We think Alana will probably run somewhere in the 36s for the 10k," he tells me. "The course has its flat parts and its rolling sections, but it's not bad by Charlotte standards. I think she is in shape to run in the mid- to upper 35s on the track, and this course is probably 45 seconds to a minute slower than a track race."
The top runners will be vying for a prize purse of $35,000, with $10,000 in money earmarked for Americans and the winner taking home $10,000.
Founded by NYRR in 1972, the Mini got its name when race founder Fred Lebow convinced the first sponsor to support a six-mile "mini" marathon -- named for the miniskirt, which was then in fashion -- rather than a full marathon. The first race featured 78 participants; 4,291 women ran it in 2009.