LRC 2015 Beach To Beacon Preview, Plus Updates From Eric Jenkins, Will Geoghegan, Riley Masters, Christo Landry, Abdi, And Why Uganda Trails Kenya

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By Jonathan Gault
July 31, 2015

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The Diamond League is on hiatus for a month with the IAAF World Championships in Beijing rapidly approaching, but American running fans need not despair as two of the jewels of the U.S. road race circuit — Saturday’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine and the New Balance Falmouth Road Race on August 16 — will be there to fill the void.

I’m on-site in Cape Elizabeth for Beach to Beacon this weekend and was able to speak to several American pros Eric JenkinsWill Geoghegan and Riley Masters plus international stud Moses Kipsiro. Below you’ll find a preview of the men’s and women’s elite races, followed by interviews and insight from this morning’s press conference.

The 2015 TD Beach to Beacon 10K elite field

The 2015 TD Beach to Beacon 10K elite field

Race details

What: 2015 TD Beach to Beacon 10K

Where: Cape Elizabeth, Maine

When: Saturday, 8:00 A.M. ET

Prize money: More than $90,000 total. $10,000 to male and female overall winner down to $500 for 10th male and female; $5,000 for top American male and female down to $500 for fifth American male and female.

Course records ($2,500 bonus): 27:28 (men; Gilbert Okari, 2003) and 30:59 (women; Lineth Chepkurui, 2010)

2014 LRC coverage

Men’s elite field (2014 finish in parentheses)

Name Country Road PB Comment
Stephen Kosgei (2) Kenya 27:43 Runner-up in ’12+’14; 2:11:08 for 10th at Hamburg Marathon in April
Moses Kipsiro Uganda 27:52 Commonwealth Games 10k champ ran 13:44 in last race at Lausanne DL on 7/9
Micah Kogo (5) Kenya 27:01 ’11+’13 champ and ’08 Olympic bronze medalist; 3rd at Bix 7 on Saturday
Daniel Salel Kenya 27:41 Looking for 3rd straight U.S. road win after winning BAA 10K (6/21) and Peachtree (7/4)
Christo Landry USA 28:25 Road specialist was 3rd at Peachtree; runner-up at US 15K+25K champs this year
Riley Masters USA Has PR’d at 1500, mile, 5k in ’15; 9th at USAs in 5k
Will Geoghegan (11) USA 29:53 Dartmouth/Oregon alum ran 13:17 5k PR on July 18 in Heusden
Eric Jenkins USA NCAA indoor 3k/5k champ PR’d in all 3 of his European races (3:38, 7:41, 13:07)
Abdi Abdirahman USA 28:11 4x Olympian ran 29:20 for 7th at Healthy Kidney 10K on May 30 in last race
Aaron Braun USA 28:52 9th at USAs in 10k
Danny Abera Ethiopia 30:49 2:08:52 marathoner
Maksim Korolev USA 30:28 Harvard/Stanford alum was 57th at World XC in March; won Midnight Madness 10K in IA on 7/11
Chris Solinsky (14) USA 30:02 26:59 PB on the track; hasn’t raced since 8:21 indoor 3k in Feb.
Ethan Shaw USA 30:23 Dartmouth alum ran 63:41 half at US Champs in January
Andrew Springer USA 29:58 13th at USAs in 5k

The favorite here is Kenyan Daniel Salel, alum of of the famous St. Patrick’s High School in Iten (other alums include David RudishaWilson Kipketer and Peter Rono). Salel has already won twice on American soil this summer, taking home the B.A.A. 10K crown on June 21 (28:09) and following that up with a 28:43 victory at the Peachtree Road Race two weeks later. He’ll go for the 10K sweep tomorrow and his chances are good, especially considering the late scratches of Ben True and Stanley Biwott (top-four at London Marathon in ’14 and ’15).

Salel at Peachtree

Salel at Peachtree

Salel also benefits from some of the world’s best training partners. His group in Kaptagat, Kenya, includes London Marathon champ Eliud Kipchoge and World XC champ Geoffrey Kamworor, and Salel said he will work out with both depending on what phase of training he’s in. Recently he’s been hitting more speed sessions so he hasn’t spent as much time working out with Kipchoge, but he appears ready to go on Saturday. Salel mentioned that he would have liked to run at the Kenyan World Championship trials this weekend in the 10,000 but since he didn’t have a qualifying time (he hasn’t run a track race since 2013), he wasn’t invited and wound up racing here instead.

Both Moses Kipsiro, the Commonwealth Games 10,000 champ from Uganda, and Stephen Kosgei (also known as Stephen Kibet, though he said he prefers Kosgei) will be racing here as well and they figure to be the best bets to upset Salel. Kosgei said he feels that he’s in the same shape as last year, when he placed second to Bedan Karoki in 27:44, while Kipsiro, who has PBs of 12:50 and 27:04 but has struggled on the track this year, is making the transition to the roads full-time.

An American has never won at Beach to Beacon (male or female) and after the withdrawal of Maine native True on Wednesday, that streak looks set to continue as the race enters its 18th year. True took down Kenyan road stud Stephen Sambu to win the Healthy Kidney 10K in New York in May and has put together the best year of his career so far in 2015 (he also set the U.S. 5K road record in April and finished 2nd at USAs in the 5,000 and 10,000). However, the 5,000/10,000 double wore True down and after hitting the qualifying standard for Worlds in the 5,000 on July 18 in Belgium, True chose not to race here in order to rest up for Worlds (the 5,000 prelims are August 26).

That leaves several men battling for top American honors and the new $5,000 bonus that goes with it. In the past, Beach to Beacon had not offered American-only prize money but thanks to sponsor Dunkin’ Donuts, there’s now a total of $23,000 on the line for the top five American men and women. Christo Landry has been one of the most successful Americans on the roads this year as he was second to True at the U.S. 15K champs in March and the runner-up to Jared Ward at the U.S. 25K champs in May. Most recently, he finished third overall (top American) in the Peachtree Road Race on July 4, running 29:05. He was only 20th at USAs in the 10,000, however.

Landry will have to work for it if he wants top American honors, however, as the race’s 10K distance is perfect given this field. It’s just long enough for Landry’s strength to benefit him, but it’s short enough for speedier 1500/5,000 guys such as Eric JenkinsRiley Masters and Will Geoghegan to be a factor. Jenkins is the best of those three, having run three PRs in three races in his recent stint in Europe, culminating with a 13:07 5,000 on July 18 to become the second-youngest American to break 13:10. The temperature should be warm on race day (Weather.com projects 70 degrees at 8 a.m. on Saturday) and if Landry or Aaron Braun (9th at USAs in the 10,000) can’t break the other Americans, look for it to come down to one of the speedsters. Considering Jenkins has beaten both Masters (at USAs) and Geoghegan (at NCAAs and Heusden) at 5,000, he should be the favorite here, assuming he’s got enough strength left over after a month and a half of racing and speed workouts.

(We have more from Jenkins,Geoghegan, Masters and their summers from the press conference below)

Women’s elite field (2014 finish in parentheses)

Name Country PB Comment
Gemma Steel (1) Great Britain 31:26 Defending champ won Euro XC Champs in December
Sentayehu Ejigu Ethiopia 31:33 ’04 Olympian ran 14:51 for 2nd at BAA 5K in April
Wude Ayalew Ethiopia 31:07 5th at Ethiopian 10k trials on June 17
Alexi Pappas (7) USA 32:32 7th last year; 9th at USA 10k; won open race at Peachtree
Diane Nukuri (3) Burundi 31:52 3rd last year; 4th at Bix 7 on Saturday
Liz Costello USA 33:22 4th at Pan Am 10k on July 23
Katie Matthews (12) USA 32:23 Ran 32:23 at Tufts 10K last year to finish 9th
Sarah Pagano USA 33:05 9th at Utica Boilermaker on July 12
Laura Thweatt USA 32:37 US XC champ racing for first time since finishing 29th at World XC in March
Stephanie Dinius USA 34:36
Chrystal Burnick USA 36:21
Katie DiCamillo USA 34:06

The death of athlete manager Zane Branson has wreaked havoc with the women’s field as two-time World XC champ Emily Chebet and Commonwealth 10,000/Honolulu Marathon champ Joyce Chepkirui, both of whom worked with Branson, withdrew earlier this week. That leaves two Ethiopians battling it out with defending champion Gemma Steel of Great Britain for the $10,000 first-place prize. Steel has been fairly consistent this year, winning the Great Manchester 10K on May 10 in 31:55 and following that up with a third-place finish (33:48) at the Healthy Kidney 10K in New York three weeks later. She dropped out of her last race, the New York Mini 10K on June 13, however, so we’ll see if she’s recovered a month and a half later.

Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu ran terrifically well in her last race, clocking 14:51 at the B.A.A. 5K in April to finish a second behind Molly Huddle, who broke the American record in that race. The favorite, however, may be Ejigu’s countrywoman Wude Ayalew, who was fifth at the Ethiopian World Championship trials in the 10,000 on June 17, running 30:58. Elite athlete coordinator Larry Barthlow made special mention of Ayalew’s current fitness, noting that she crushed a recent tempo run workout. Last year, Barthlow made a point to note how fit Bedan Karoki was and Karoki responded by running the third-fastest winning time ever (27:37), so I’ll put some stock in his word.

Among the Americans, Alexi Pappas, who was seventh here last year (third American) and Liz Costello are the best bets. Pappas was 9th at USAs in the 10,000 and winning the open race at Peachtree earlier this month. Liz Costello beat Pappas at USAs (she was 7th) but considering she raced a 10,000 on the track eight days ago (she was 4th at the Pan American Games), she may be at a disadvantage. It will also be something of an Ivy League grudge match as Pappas is a Dartmouth alum while Costello went to Princeton. U.S. XC champ Laura Thweatt will also be in action in her first race since World XC in March.

Five Observations From This Morning’s Press Conference

(Note: Most of the top women had left by the time I finished talking with the men; I’ll definitely be sure to catch up with the top women after the race tomorrow)

1. Oregon alums Will Geoghegan and Eric Jenkins had a fun (and successful) trip to Europe and are ready to close out their seasons back in New England

Geoghegan and Alexi Pappas prepare for some strides at Cape Elizabeth High School on Friday

Geoghegan and Alexi Pappas prepare for some strides at Cape Elizabeth High School on Friday

Both Geoghegan (who grew up 45 minutes north of Cape Elizabeth in Brunswick) and Jenkins (who grew up an hour south in Portsmouth, N.H.) are New England natives and the two Oregon alums will finish up their first summers as professionals together along the Maine coast. 2015 has certainly been a good year for the 23-year-olds, with PBs across the board, a pair of NCAA team titles with the Ducks and two NCAA individual titles for Jenkins. It’s only fitting that the two former training partners will close out the season together after beginning it in the same race in Lexington, Ky., on January 23 (Jenkins beat Geoghegan there, 13:31 to 13:43). Geoghegan will be looking to end a personal losing streak as Jenkins has won all 10 of their meetings so far this year.

The two had similar things to say about their recent experiences in Europe, as they noted that the biggest change was the added responsibility that comes with being a professional runner. They’re not on a team anymore, and particularly in Europe, there’s no set schedule, so the onus is on them to get their work in every day and make the right decisions with regards to meals, recovery, etc. Based on their recent results, the two are adjusting just fine.

Neither seemed too concerned that some recent low-mileage weeks would hurt them tomorrow. Since NCAAs, the two haven’t had much time for anything other than racing and recovering — Geoghegan noted that he’s done one hard workout since NCAAs in mid-June — and a runner’s mileage inevitably suffers as a result. If the race is hard from the gun tomorrow, which Jenkins expects, it could pose a challenge for the two, but given that each of them ran substantial 5,000 PBs less than two weeks ago (13:07 for Jenkins, 13:17 for Geoghegan), they should have the strength to challenge for top American honors tomorrow.

Mainers are fiercely proud of their heritage but even Geoghegan said he wasn’t sure if he agreed with LetsRun.com’s argument that Maine is deeper per capita then Kenya when it comes to 5,000 runners. Maine’s success this year has been undeniable with Geoghegan, Riley Masters and Ben True, though, and I asked him why he thought that was.

“Maine has a great tradition of running all the way back to [race founder and 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist] Joanie [Benoit-Samuelson] and Bruce Bickford. It’s such a small state that you get people that have a lot of success early on and kind of get it in their head that they’re good. I think that’s a good formula. I think the lack of high school competition might help.”

It certainly did for Geoghegan, who won state titles at 800, 1600 and 3200 as a senior at Brunswick High School in 2010.

2. Riley Masters views himself as a 5,000 runner now

Masters has been living in “Tapertown” since USAs but said he feels sharp and ready to race tomorrow. Masters surprised some with his 13:17 5,000 at Payton Jordan in May but he showed that he’s for real with a solid 9th-place finish in that event at USAs and said that the 5,000 is his event now.

“I think I’m really comfortable with the distance and think there’s a lot more there than I showed this year, too,” Masters said.

He added that he’s been at around 85 miles per week consistently since November after running in the 70s in college and that he’s been hitting 5,000 workouts well for a year and a half. It’s all been part of coach Danny Mackey‘s plan, who said he wanted Masters to race well at every distance from 800 through 10,000 when he signed with the Brooks Beasts. He’ll test that upper limit tomorrow.

Masters also shared a funny anecdote from his European travels (starts at 4:41 mark) detailing how Declan Murray surprised his NJ*NY TC teammate Ford Palmer by surreptitiously snapping this photograph through a skylight after climbing onto the roof (the feet belong to Will Geoghegan).

3. Moses Kipsiro is fully committed to the roads

I spoke to Kipsiro off-camera and he said that he came into 2015 hoping to make the Ugandan World Champs team on the track, but that never materialized as he struggled at the New York (5th in 13:31) and Lausanne (14th in 13:44) Diamond League meets. Kipsiro, who finished 3rd, 4th and 4th at the ’07 Worlds/’08 Olympics/’09 Worlds said he doesn’t have the speed he once did and that it’s necessary to have great speed these days to do anything on the track. Without the IAAF standard in either the 5,000 or the 10,000 this year, Kipsiro decided to run at Beach to Beacon (only his third time racing in the States) and transition to the roads. Right now, the plan for Kipsiro, still only 28, is to move up in distance and take on the half marathon soon, perhaps shifting to the marathon in a couple years.

I was also curious to ask Kipsiro about his relationship with the Ugandan federation, with which he has clashed in the past. Kipsiro was instrumental in raising awareness about Peter Wemali, a former coach employed by the Ugandan Athletics Federation who suggested young female runners get pregnant and have abortions to “get their legs moving more freely,” and about whom there are serious criminal charges of sexual assault and allegations by Kipsiro of murder. With Wemali now in jail, Kipsiro said the situation between him and the federation has “cooled down” (Kipsiro was thrown off Uganda’s team for the World Half Marathon Champs last year after coming forward about Wemali) but added that there are still problems to be addressed.

Notably, Kipsiro said that the Ugandan Athletics Federation is doing a poor job of developing talent. Almost all of the country’s coaches are based in the capital of Kampala and the federation’s coaches will try to take credit for Ugandan success once an athlete hits it big on the international stage. But Kipsiro said that there is no development system in place as many of the most talented runners are from the hillier, rural areas of the country, such as his training base in Kapchorwa — areas where there are no coaches. Kipsiro said that he believes Uganda, which, at 37 million people, isn’t much smaller than Kenya (45 million), is lagging behind both Kenya and Ethiopia (90 million) because many of the best runners in the country go unnoticed.

4. Christo Landry has to be careful tomorrow

Landry, who will begin a long buildup to the Olympic Trials marathon starting in September, knows that he’ll have to make some important decisions in the race tomorrow about who to go with when the gun goes off. With a $5,000 carrot for the top American, Landry would like to beat the track studs like Masters, Jenkins and Geoghegan but he’ll have to walk a narrow line. His aim is to run fast enough early in the race for his strength to break them before the finish line (he was second at the U.S. 15K and 25K champs earlier this year) but not so fast that he winds up going with the lead group of Kenyans (if they run an aggressive pace). How Landry manages that line will determine his success tomorrow.

Landy routinely runs 140-mile weeks but said that it takes him a long time to hit that level of mileage, hence his five-month buildup to the Olympic trials. He’ll start around 70 miles per week in September and gradually increase that all the way until February until tapering right before the Trials.

5. Abdi Abdirahman is in good spirits and is on track for the Olympic Trials in February

Abdirahman has been healthy recently and said that his biggest priority between now and the Olympic Trials marathon in February is to stay healthy, where the 36-year-old will try to make his fifth (!) Olympic team. His plan is to race a few road races through the early fall, then come back to run a few half marathons or a marathon later in the fall before building up to the Trials. Abdirahman last raced a marathon in April 2014 (he was 16th in Boston) and said that he’s not worried about not doing another marathon before the Trials (if that’s how things end up) as he can look back at his logs and his years of experience to prepare himself for the race.

More RRW Coverage of Beach to Beacon: *Salel Confident
*Americans Set to Battle


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