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USA Men's 10km Championships: Abdi Wins US Title, 2nd Overall at Peachtree
By: PJ Christman
July 4, 2007

      Historically over the past few years, American men haven"t made a strong Independence Day impact upon The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race in the challenging heat of the Georgian summer. But Arizonan Abdi Abdirahman, Californian Ryan Hall, Virginian Ed Moran and many other Americans, on hand for the USA Men"s 10 km Championship held in conjunction with the event, made sure the perennially formidable foreign contingent felt their presence. 

      Traditionally Africans have fared well over the hilly course passing from Lenox Square to Piedmont Park in Atlanta. This year was no exception, with Kenyan Martin Irungu winning the outright title in 28:01.

      Yet July 4th is America"s Independence Day. Abdirahman was about to claim the U.S.A. Men"s 10km Championship with 28:12, although that wasn"t the three-time U.S. 10,000m track champion"s focus. "My main goal wasn"t to win the U.S. title. It was to win the whole thing," he would say afterwards. "I tried." 

      Abdirahman did try. He came oh-so-close to carrying the day for the red, white and blue. However, Kenyan Irungu wouldn"t have it, and early on the scenario appeared just like the many years when Africans prevail, challenging the Americans to chase them through the cheering curbside enthusiasts before their Independence Day barbecues and fireworks. 

 Kenyan Irungu, who competes for Suzuki and lives in the Shizuoka Province of Japan, remains one of the top males competing over the 10,000m distance in the Pacific Island empire. With a personal best of 27:08, he attacked the Peachtree course with a series of 4:24-4:26 opening miles as if it was a flat 10,000m track.

      Behind Irungu, Abdirahman hovered in fourth for the downhill sections. Yet the man, who trains in Tucson"s summer heat that sometimes reaches more than 100 degrees, likes hills and between the 3 to 5 mile mark gradually passed Kenyans Peter Kamais, Boaz Cheboiywo and Nicholas Kamakya on the climbs and noisiest portions of the 6.2-mile course. 

      "I thought it would be tough to catch the guys," explained Abdirahman, "but I"m a strong hill runner, even though I didn"t know how many I could catch." 

      While Abdirahman drew up alongside the Kenyan leader beyond mile five and the crest of the hills, a huge juggernaut of Americans, including U.S. 20K and half marathon record holder Ryan Hall, was giving it their best July 4th effort. They were rolling about 200m behind the leaders when Hall, like a late series of aerial bombs in a fireworks display, suddenly began to explode from the pack. "I was just kind of waiting to play it conservative," Hall said after signing a quick autograph for the shirtless Georgia State admirer who led the first 200m of the race, "because I knew it was a challenging course and I knew some of the guys would go out too hard. I wanted to give myself a shot to win."  

      Meanwhile when they turned the 10th Street corner to descend the final half mile into the park, Irungu and Abdirahman both knew it was time for early shooting stars. 

      "We wanted to help each other," Abdirahman said of his adversary. "But when we had the downhill, I knew the race began now." 

      Irungu was well aware of who the American was. "I know Abdi is very strong," Irungu smiled afterwards, "so I had to do my best to run with him." 

      There was to be no running together, however, as the Kenyan with the faster personal best for the distance opened up 11 seconds on U.S. titlist and second-placer Abdirahman. 

      "My target was to run 27-zero-zero," Irungu added, but…" 

      Abdirahman was more philosophical about his runner-up and U.S.A. Men"s 10km Championship title effort. "He was a better man today," he said. "That"s the sport. You win some, you lose some." 

      Following Abdirahman"s 28:12 and Kenyan-from-Santa Fe"s Nicholas Kamakya"s 28:20, was Kenyan Boaz Cheboiywo"s 28:26.  

      This mark was an important accomplishment for Michigan resident Cheboiwyo, who has lived in the USA for seven years. Cheboiywo was turned down for citizenship after only four years of residence. Yet now, although having missed out on double dipping in prize money had he been a citizen, the Kenyan hopes with letters from USATF president Craig Masback and a Michigan congressman to succeed in his quest for a treasured blue passport. 

      Behind those four, Hall really made the second half count, passing many on the way to a fifth-overall and second-U.S-finisher 28:35. The fastest U.S. first-time marathoner, even though from high school onward used to being in front while racing, attributed his successful coming-from-behind approach to the Olympic marathon gold medalist from Italy."I was thinking about Baldini and how he runs," Hall related. "I learned a lot in London. I thought, ‘I"ve got to be smart like him, without being up front." 

      In the women"s race Ethiopian Wude Ayalew and Kenyan Alice Timbilil started fast and continued to 31:44 and 31:48 1st and 2nd placings. Yet Team USA Minnesotan Katie McGregor, prepping for the IAAF World Champs 10,000m in Osaka, was third in 32:41, and U.S. 1500m finalist Sara Hall, originally in Atlanta just to support husband Ryan, finished an unexpected fourth in 32:58. 

      All in all, the Americans began their Independence Day with spirit. 

      "I came out last year and had a good time, so I wanted to come out this year just to have fun," Katie McGregor responded of her Peachtree participation. "It"s nice to have the U.S. Champs, too. It"s just great to be a part of a big event. What are you going to do on July 4th but run a 10K in the heat and humidity?" 

      McGregor"s sporting approach was echoed by other Americans.  

      Hall, for one, was looking forward to taking it easy. "It was fun," he answered when asked about running Peachtree and the U.S.A. Men"s 10km Championship on Independence Day. "It was amazing to see all the people. I"ve always wanted to run Peachtree. And now I"m going to celebrate the rest of the day." 

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