By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
CAPE ELIZABETH, MAINE (03-Aug) — Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui broke the tape first in Fort Williams Park today by running 31:23.2 to win the 16th TD Beach to Beacon 10-K, her first road race win on American soil.
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, who ran in the Olympic 10,000 last year, 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 Chepkurui who didn’t run the Kenyan Trials his year. “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.
Unofficial Top 10 Results *Full Results Here
1. Joyce Chepkirui KEN 31:23.2
2. Gemma Steel GBR 31:35.2
3. Sule Utura ETH 31:37.6
4. Yebrugal Melese ETH 31:39.5
5. Linet Masai KEN 32:03.6
6. Buzunesh Deba ETH 32:11.1
7. Deena Kastor USA 32:28.2
8. Diane Nukuri-Johnson USA 32:35.2
9. Aheza Kiros ETH 32:45.5
10. Alexi Pappas 32:55.2
*The Beach to Beacon course has a 65% start/finish separation, and an elevation loss of .82m/kilometer. USATF and IAAF standards for record-setting require start/finish separation no greater than 50% of the race distance, while the more conservative Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) requires 30%. Nonetheless, the elevation change is within the record-setting limit of 1m/km, so Kastor’s performance is statistically valid for all-time lists, even if it cannot be ratified as a record.