By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (13-June) — Kenya’s Mary Keitany looked as smooth as could be racing the Oakley New York Mini 10-K here in Central Park, maintaining a blistering pace to earn a commanding victory in 31:15 despite warm and humid conditions. The 33-year-old simply overpowered a top-notch field, breaking away in the third mile and never looking back. Her time is the third fastest in the world thus far this year.
“I think the race today was good for me because I win the race and the time,” said Keitany, speaking in a barely audible voice. Clutching a Kenyan flag, she smiled brightly. “I am happy.”
Bolting from the other 10,000 women behind them Central Park West, Keitany and Kenyan compatriots Betsy Saina and Edna Kiplagat, as well as “local” Ethiopian Etaferahu Temesgen, would congregate at the front of the field. Turning into Central Park in the third kilometer, the quartet began to move away from the rest of the elite field.
Hitting the mile in 5:10 and two miles in 10:09, Keitany began to get antsy. Looking as if she were out for a casual jog, the lithe mother of one increased her tempo while traversing Central Park’s northern hills. It was her subtle yet decisive move on an incline that would be the deciding factor in the race. All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, Keitany was all alone going around the Park’s northern tip, a gap growing from five meters, to ten, then fifteen.
The consistent pitter-patter of her pink adidas shoes hitting the pavement was audible from the lead truck, as were the increasing cheers for Keitany as she hit halfway in 15:38, 15 seconds up on the chase pack that was made up of Saina, Kiplagat, and Temesgen. Reeling the chasing trio in was Burundi’s Diane Nukuri.
It was in the race’s second half that Keitany put on a pure show: running consecutive miles of 5:09, 4:58, and 5:00, Keitany’s cushion grew to a whopping minute and 15 seconds by the finish. Like a metronome, she’d cover the rolling terrain without altering her stride, keeping her eyes down on the pavement and arms swinging like a pendulum. The only time she broke form was to grab a cup of water in the fourth mile.
Breaking the tape in 31:15, Keitany became the 12th champion from Kenya in race history. Keitany also became the fourth women to have won the TCS New York City Marathon and Oakley New York Mini 10-K in successive years, joining the likes of Grete Waitz, Liz McColgan, and Tegla Loroupe.
“I thank God because I have won the race, because I won the marathon last year and after I come for the Mini 10-K and I run something great. I wanted to be remembered in New York because it’s not easy to win a race like this because I know many of my colleagues are champions,” said Keitany.
With the win, she picked up $10,000.
The telling stat of the day came from the race’s splits: Keitany’s final 5-K of 15:37 was exactly a minute faster than her closest competitor. No other athlete in the field covered the second half faster than 16:37.
“The first 5-K was not so hot, but after 5-K it was getting hotter and I wanted to go alone after 5-K because I wanted my colleagues to be with me for the first three miles and then I move on alone,” described the newly crowned champion. She executed her strategy to perfection.
Compatriot Saina had hopes that Keitany would come back during the race’s hilly section, but quickly knew that wasn’t going to be the case. Instead of chasing after Keitany alone, the Iowa State alum led the second pack charge with Kiplagat and Temesgen on her heals.
“I knew she was tough. I’ve been watching her since I was in college, and coming here to race with her I was like I wanted to beat her so bad,” she said with a chuckle. “She’s tough and she’s strong and I like competing with her. It was very good to run with her for the first 5-K.”
Separating in the final miles, Saina went on to take second in 32:30. Kiplagat was third in 32:39, with Nukuri –having caught Temesgen– fourth in 32:47. Temesgen was a surprising fifth, 32:50 her time.
“It was very good to help them and race with them,” said Saina, who will head back to Kenya tomorrow to race in the National Championships 10,000m, hoping to qualify for the World Championships. “It’s good. It’s a huge race for me because it just made me feel like I’m back again.”
Earning top American honors was Brianne Nelson, the 34-year-old from Golden, Colo. Nelson was very happy with her sixth place, 33:07 showing, raising her arms in jubilation at the finish.
“I knew it was going to be a hot day and I knew it was going to be fast, so I was prepared to hurt the whole entire way from the start,” said Nelson, draped in an American flag. “I just kept pushing the whole entire way. I actually love the hills, so I knew that once I got into the Park that that was my strength and I just pushed every uphill and down and kept plugging away.”
With her main goal being the 2016 USA Olympic Trials Marathon, Nelson is choosing to sharpen her speed by doing shorter distance races on the roads this summer. “It’s an amazing feeling. You don’t get to be the top American very often for me, so this is huge, a big deal!” she added.
Other notable finishers included Ireland’s Mary Cullen (eighth in 33:24), American Blake Russell (10th in 33:31), and Boston Marathon champion Caroline Rotich 11th in 33:32. She was followed across the line by Rkia El Moukim (33:40) and Serena Burla (33:47).
Great Britain’s Gemma Steel was among the second chase pack through roughly two miles, though wound up dropping out of the race due to illness. Also unable to finish was Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba.
Results via NYRR:
Top six finishers:
- Mary Keitany, 33, KEN 31:15
- Betsy Saina, 26, KEN 32:30
- Edna Kiplagat, 35, KEN 32:39
- Diane Nukuri, 30, BDI 32:47
- Etaferahu Temesgen, 25, ETH 32:50
- Brianne Nelson, 34, USA 33:07
Weather: 77 degrees, 56% humidity, wind 10 mph