By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
CAPE ELIZABETH, MAINE (03-Aug) -- Kenyans swept the top spots here at the 16th TD Beach to Beacon 10-K, as Micah Kogo and Joyce Chepkirui broke the tape first in Fort Williams Park. Kogo's victory is his second in three years, while Chepkirui earned her first road race win on American soil.
"I feel very good, a fabulous and fantastic moment for me to win for the second time at the Beach to Beacon race," said a smiling Kogo, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000m.
Seconds after ceremonial starter Karen Rand --a victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings-- began the race, a lead pack of ten men found themselves in front of the 6,000-plus field. Doing the leading duties was American Meb Keflezighi.
Running aggressively like he had at last week's Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race in Iowa, Keflezighi pushed the pace with all the pre-race contenders in his slipstream. Among them were Kenyans Emmanuel Mutai, Kogo, Silas Kipruto and Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet. Americans Ryan Hall and Elliot Krause tucked in behind towards the back of the group.
Shortly after reaching two miles in 9:14, the pack had dwindled down to six, as both Hall and the Wisconsin alum Krause were among those to have fallen off the back. Getting antsy behind Keflezighi, the East Africans took turns coming up on his shoulder, then fading back a step or two. Eventually, about a minute and 30 seconds after passing five kilometers in 14:13, a move was made by Kogo.
"Before 5-K we were still with a big group. After five kilometers I wanted to see if I could push the pace a little bit higher. When I see some hills down the road I tried to push more," he said.
Winding their way through the rolling course, the Kenyan contingent of four began to break apart. First it was Mutai fading, then Kipkosgei Kibet. Eventually the lone American remaining, Keflezighi, fell victim to Kogo's surge. The only one to match the 27-year-old wound up being Kipruto.
With rain beginning to fall, Kogo and Kipruto passed the five mile mark, then approached the entrance to Fort Williams Park for the twisting and narrow finish. That's when Kogo began to separate from his compatriot, breaking the tape in 28:03.3. Kogo became the third athlete in race history to earn multiple event titles, joining compatriots Edward Muge (2) and Gilbert Okari (3).
"I was just hoping to win because due to my last race at the Boston Marathon [where he finished second], I wasn't thinking I still have speed," admitted Kogo. "It surprised me because I see I can do 10-K, half-marathon, and still have more speed."
Though his time was slower than his 2011 winning mark of 27:46.9, Kogo was just as happy.
"I love this course," he said. "I know the course, I know where I can put more here, I like this course and the crowd and the family who supports me when I stay here."
In the race's 16-year history, Kenyan men have been victorious 13 times.
Kipruto finished just over five seconds behind in second, timing 28:08.5. Mutai came back from fifth in the race's latter stages to take third (28:22.0) ahead of Kipkosgei Kibet (28:27.1), while the top American, Keflezighi, rounded out the top five in 28:37.2.
"I feel strong and the best way for me to get back and better is to push it," said Keflezighi, noting that he has only recently run 65 to 75 miles a week, all in single sessions. "I said I'd run 28:00 to 28:30. I missed it by six seconds... I'm very realistic, but I'm happy that I was competitive for a bit."
The surprise of the day came from American Krause, who picked off athletes one by one after reaching five kilometers. Among those who fell victim to Krause were Ryan Hall and Ethiopian Dino Sefir, the latter of whom was in the front pack early on.
Hall had a disappointing showing, taking tenth in 29:43.6. He told Race Results Weekly that his legs simply were tired from the early miles.
"I went out too hard, went out like an idiot," said Hall, who wound up as the fourth American behind Keflezighi, Krause, and Gabe Proctor (Proctor, the NCAA Division II 5000m and 10,000m champion on the track this year, was ninth in 29:27.4.) "It's fun to be up there with those guys for a bit but it wasn't the best way to run.
"I was slowly dying, like a two-mile time trial and a four-mile --I don't know what you'd call it-- a jog."
CHEPKIRUI PULLS AWAY TO WIN WOMEN'S RACE
Unlike the men's contest, which broke up mile by mile, the women's race was a pack affair from the start. Passing the mile in about five minutes, a clear group had formed that would stay together for the most part through four miles (6.44 km).
Not until the five mile mark (8 km) would things really develop. By that point, Briton Gemma Steel was mixing it up with the African contingent, featuring Kenya's Chepkirui and Linet Masai, as well as Ethiopian's Sule Utura, Yebrugal Melese, and Buzunesh Deba.
With a mile to go, Chepkirui had one thing on her mind: surge. The 24-year-old noted that in order to break the group, she had to make an unyielding and aggressive move.
"At five miles I started to move," she said in a soft voice. "I was in the lead and I see my competitors, about five ladies, so I decided to move."
Spurred on by the thought of not being chosen to represent Kenya at the IAAF World Championships 10,000m, the 24-year-old wanted to prove she had what it took to win on the world stage.
"I don't know the problem. They refused so I didn't run, but I was supposed to run the 10,000m," she said. "I knew I was in good shape."
Entering Fort Williams Park with a comfortable lead, Chepkirui crossed the line in 31:23.2, becoming the race's 12th Kenyan champion in 16 years. Hers was the second-fastest winning time in race history.
"I feel very happy because this year, I have not run good cause I was having an injury. But now I am OK," she said.
Twelve seconds behind was Steel, who made a gutsy move of her own. After sticking with the African group, the blonde Brit asked herself 'why not go for more?'
"At a mile to go it was five of us and I was like 'I'm in the top five, that's good,'" she described. "I said I might as well go for it and try to win it. I've come this far and am not going to give up now."
The decision paid off, as the 27-year-old earned $5000 and set a new personal best of 31:35.3. Steel's placing is her second podium finish in as many American road races this year. In June, she was third at the Oakley New York Mini 10-K.
"It brings out the best in me I think," she said, explaining how the American atmosphere is something special. "I've come over all the way from the UK so I want to make it worthwhile."
Having finished third in New York and second here, Steel is looking for more next week at the Falmouth Road Race.
"I'm looking forward to the Falmouth Road Race now. I've got one step to go, you never know really, cause I've been third, now second, and I'll just try to get the win now. To be in that company today was really amazing for me, overwhelming really," she said.
Sule Utura (31:37.7), Yebrugal Melese (31:39.5), and Linet Masai (32:03.6) rounded out the top five. Missing among the leaders was course record holder Lineth Chepkurui; TD Beach to Beacon 10-K Elite Athlete Coordinator Larry Barthlow told Race Results Weekly that the Kenyan had a hamstring problem that flared up during the race. She finished well outside of the top-10 in 36 minutes.
Deena Kastor, 40, was the top American in seventh, timing 32:28.2, a mark well inside of Colleen De Reuck's USA masters record of 32:50*. The mother of one said her performance bodes well considering she has been in marathon training in preparation for next weekend's IAAF World Championships marathon in Moscow. She will leave for Russia tomorrow.
"I feel happy with my race. I think in marathon training, a 5:03 first mile is a little fast for me, but I feel happy with my race and I feel like I pushed the whole time. I kept engaged with the group in front of me, fighting for every step," she said.
Former Oregon Duck Alexi Pappas finished 10th in a solid 32:55.2 in her road racing debut.