Some of the best runners the state has to offer will compete against top-quality competition from around the world in the annual Deseret News marathon and 10k this Thursday.

The annual Pioneer Day race, which is a Days of '47 tradition, posts a very talented field this year, according to assistant race director Sam Wood.

"This is actually one of the best fields overall we've had in many years," Wood said.

Traditionally, the marathon and 10k are won by out-of-staters and talented runners from African nations. But this year the question remains: Can the state's best compete with the best the world has to offer?

The marathon features top returning competition from years past as well as champions from some of the country's other premier marathons. Jonathan Ndambuki, 32, of Kenya returns as the defending four-time champion of the marathon.

Others that will be chasing Ndambuki and the $2,008 grand prize are 2007 ING Georgia Marathon winner Joseph Chirlee; Jynocel Basweti, winner of the 2007 Austin Marathon and runner-up in the 2007 Las Vegas Marathon; 2008 Ogden Marathon Champ Seth Wold; and Bill Cobler, last year's master's champion in the marathon, among others.

Names for the women's marathon have not been announced yet.

The annual marathon, which features an elevation change of 3,200 feet, starts at 5:30 a.m. near Big Mountain, winds down Emigration Canyon, down Foothill Boulevard and past Rice-Eccles Stadium before going through downtown Salt Lake City and ending at Liberty Park.

Runners-up in the marathon earn a $1,000 prize, while third place earns $500. The top Utah finisher will receive $500 and the top master's finisher $250.

Headlining the competition for the 10k are a handful of cross-country stars from local universities mixed with some foreign competition as well.

Weber State All-American Seth Pilkington, who placed fourth in the 2008 NCAA 10K, will face off against Chandler Goodwin, a BYU All-American in the steeplechase and cross country; Grant Robison, who represented the U.S. in the 1,500 meters in Athens; Notre Dame All-American Pat Smyth; and multiple Deseret News 10k winner Teren Jameson.

Also on the list are Alexander Tomas, who has placed in the top three at many local races this year and Australian Andrew Leatherby, winner of the 2007 Manchester Road Race.

On the women's side, multiple DN 10K winner Emily Jameson will compete against former BYU All-American Lindsey Dunkley, former BYU all-conference runner Jenna Jenson, former BYU all-conference runner Carolyn Quebe, Ethiopian Belainish Gebre, who was Dam to Dam 20K champion, and Weber State All-American Morgan Haws.

The 10K starts at 6 a.m. on the University of Utah's Research Park on Chipeta Way, goes down Foothill Boulevard to 1300 East and follows that road until it crosses South Temple. The route heads west on South Temple until it reaches 200 East, then finishes turning east at 900 South to the finish line at Liberty Park. Purses for the race include $1,500 for the winners, $750 for runners-up and $500 for third-place finishers. The top Utah runners will garner $500, $250 or $150 checks for their performances.

Packet pickup and late registration is on Tuesday at EnergySolutions Arena from 4 to 9 p.m. and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. No race-day registration will be accepted.

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