Marathon not the only elite race this weekend

When American Olympic marathoners Deena Kastor and Magdalena Lewy Boulet head to New York on the first weekend of November, running fans are fairly certain they are in for a thrilling 26.2-mile race through the city streets. Typically they'd be correct, but this year Kastor, Lewy Boulet and a host of other top distance-running talents will be racing just 3.1 miles to the New York City Marathon finish line.

The inaugural Dash to the Finish Line 5K, which begins at 8:30 a.m. ET on Saturday at 42nd Street near the United Nations and ends at the New York City Marathon finish line in Central Park, is New York Road Runners' answer to a timing conundrum. The fastest American marathoners are just two months away from the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, to be held on Jan. 14 in Houston, which leaves most of them unable to compete in Sunday's race. In an effort to bring these Americans into the fold of the marathon weekend festivities, NYRR added the 5K to the lineup.

"The Dash to the Finish Line is just one more way for everyone to get involved in marathon weekend," said Mary Wittenberg, CEO and president of NYRR, in a written statement. "… And to top it off, there is the bonus of running across our famed marathon finish line with so many of our talented athletes in this fast, fun 5K."

For Stephanie Rothstein, who currently holds the sixth-fastest marathon qualifying time for the trials with a 2:29:35, the 5K is an opportunity to improve her personal best at the shorter distance after she missed the summer track season with an injury.

"This will top off some speed training I've been doing for the past few weeks," said Rothstein, who is recovering from sacroiliac joint dysfunction. "Then I'll start the marathon training buildup to the trials."

Although Rothstein and fellow marathoners who are entered in the 5K said they are in some sense relieved not to be lining up for the marathon distance on Sunday, they still aren't immune from the palpable "marathon fever" coursing through the city.

"I'm originally from New York, my father passed away here -- it's a special place to me," Rothstein said. "I definitely want to come back and win the New York City Marathon one day."

But for this weekend, the pro field will take a shortcut to Tavern on the Green.

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