Eric Jenkins Finishes Fourth in 10-K Road Debut
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
CAPE ELIZABETH, ME, USA (01-Aug) –It took five tries over the course of six years, but Kenya’s Stephen Kosgei Kibet can now call himself champion of the TD Beach to Beacon 10-K. Making his winning move in the final mile, Kibet triumphantly won in 28:28.2, the fifteenth consecutive man from Kenya to win the event. For the women, it was Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew defeating Burundi’s Diane Nukuri in a hard fought battle to the line, 31:55.5 to 31:59.6.
KIBET RUNS AWAY WITH FIRST TD BEACH TO BEACON 10-K CROWN
With temperatures hovering around 68F (20C) and little to no wind, conditions were perfect for fast racing here along the Atlantic coastline. Yet even with favorable racing conditions, the men’s race began at a pedestrian pace. No one wanted to risk spending too much energy too soon, fearing the temperatures –and pace– would rise steadily as the field of 6,500 made their way towards Fort Williams.
Hitting the mile in 4:48 and two miles in 9:38 (4:50), a pack of roughly 15 had developed, led by Kibet, fellow Kenyans Daniel Salel and Micah Kogo, as well as Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro. A group of Americans, including former Oregon Ducks Eric Jenkins and Will Geoghegan, took turns out front along with Christo Landry and Aaron Braun.
“The women are going to be sneaking up on them soon!” race founder and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson joked with a laugh, surprised by the pace. Observing from the lead truck, she added “I once could have run this pace!”
As if following a script, Kibet injected a surge that quickly strung out the field, separating the contenders from pretenders just like he had a year ago. Before reaching halfway in 14:44, Americans Braun, Landry, and Geoghegan began to fade off the East Africans’ shoulders. Kibet’s motion seemed flawless, comfortable with the quick change of gears. He was the most experienced bridesmaid of the group, having finished fourth in 2010 and 2013, as well as second in 2012 and 2014.
“Everybody did not want to push the pace. They were scared to push the pace. Third mile, fourth mile, we started to pick it up,” said Kibet. “I know the route. Because I know the way, I knew very well [when to make the move].”
The only non-African able to match Kibet’s 4:35 and 4:31 back-to-back miles was Jenkins, fresh off a 5000m personal best on the track. Turning onto Shore Road five abreast, the group of Kibet, Jenkins, Kipsiro, Salel, and Kogo had a 100-meter lead on the chase pack.
Kibet would ultimately own the race’s second decisive move, thriving on a steep downhill leading to the five mile mark near picturesque Pond Cove. First Jenkins began to lose contact, joined by two-time winner Kogo. Minutes later, Kibet found himself all by his lonesome out front, cruising in his orange vest to the win.
Finishing in 28:28.2, Kibet raised his hands as he broke the tape, finally having taken the top spot. Simply put, the 28-year-old was over the moon to finish ahead of Kipsiro (second, 28:39.7) and Salel (third, 28:40.5).
“I have been running here for five times, second two times, fourth two times, and this year I won. I am very happy!” he said “I am very happy for it. I know the whole course.”
With his win, Kibet takes home $10,000. He has already vowed to return next year, promising to go for a faster time and race hard from the gun.
“It feels good. Next year I will be back. I need to focus on the course record, and maybe next year I can come well prepared and push the race before the third mile,” he said, noting that he loves this event for the many downhills and uphills.
Fourth in 28:50.0 was Jenkins, out-dueling Kogo (29:07.5) who finished fifth. Capping off his season with a top American finish at his debut road 10-K was nice, Jenkins said.
“I felt good and I figured I might as well [go for it]. The goal was to be top American, but why not try to mix it up a bit with the Africans,” remarked Jenkins. “They really put it on and I just couldn’t hang today. But I hung tough and tried to finish as hard as I could. I’m happy with it.”
When asked what’s up next for the 23-year-old, Jenkins turned the attention from running to his off season. He said he needs to work on his tan more than anything in the coming weeks.
“Maybe I’ll go to an island and just work on my tan from now on. No big plans. I’m sure I’ll have some fun,” he said. Seconds later he confessed “I like to think I can get a little darker, but I don’t. I just get really burnt, really uncomfortable, and the next day I’m back to pasty.”
On a more serious note, Jenkins’s confident style drew the praise of Samuelson, who told Race Results Weekly she was very impressed with the New Hampshire native’s racing tactics. “I thought Eric ran a heck of a race and that was very impressive,” she said.
Americans also placed sixth through tenth: Aaron Braun (29:28.4), Abdi Abdirahman (29:36.7), Will Geoghegan (29:47.6), Riley Masters (29:54.8), and Chris Solinsky (30:03.5).
WUDE AYALEW KICKS HER WAY TO WOMEN’S WIN
Similar to the men’s race, the women’s contest began as a slow, tactical affair before Diane Nukuri of Burundi took control of the tempo. A graduate of the University of Iowa and an experienced runner on this course, Nukuri split 5-K in 16:10 with two athletes in her slipstream: decorated Ethiopians Wude Ayalew and Sentayehu Ejigu.
Dealing with travel woes the past two days, Nukuri nonetheless felt sharp running up and down the course’s hilly terrain. With a mile remaining, the tall Olympian thought she was primed to take home her first win here. She looked over her shoulder and noticed Ejigu had fallen back. Yet the diminutive Ayalew was able to hang tough.
Entering Fort Williams for the final, twisting 400 meters, Ayalew simply turned to another gear, pumping her arms and creating a four second gap on Nukuri. In the blink of an eye, Ayalew took the lead for the first time today, speeding away with the title.
“I really wanted to come and win the race,” Ayalew told Larry Barthlow, the race’s elite athlete coordinator, serving as translator. “I’m very strong right now.”
Nukuri was both pleased and frustrated with her second place showing (31:59.6). After all, she had led the final four miles until the finish was nearly in sight. She was eighth here in 2013 and third here last year.
“They were right there behind me on my shoulder. I was just hoping they’d come and do some work [helping out front],” Nukuri said. “I’m not disappointed at all. It would have been nice to win since the last 200, but this is the closest I’ve ever been here and I’m headed in the right direction.”
Ayalew ran confident thanks to a boost in training she got from running a very hard 10-K tempo effort in Addis Ababa in under 31 minutes. She will represent Ethiopia in the 10,000m at the All-African Games.
“I like to race,” the quiet Ayalew told Barthlow.
Third went to Ejigu in 32:16.2, followed by last year’s winner, Britain’s Gemma Steel, in 32:56.5.
The battle for top American honors was a ferocious one, as Oregon Track Club’s Alexi Pappas, New Balance’s Liz Costello, and Saucony’s Laura Thweatt ran most of the race together. Pappas and Costello would break away, trading the lead back and forth until Pappas kicked hard in the final 100m.
“Today I wanted top American as much as I’ve ever wanted anything,” said Pappas, explaining that her mindset was to focus on maintaining form and not the building fatigue in her body. Having walked the last stretch yesterday, she visualized a strong finish. “I knew that I would not regret putting everything into that last 20 seconds… I felt brave and feel like I surprised myself.”
Pappas led the trio across the line in 32:56.9, a step ahead of Costello (32:57.6) and 21 seconds up on Thweatt (33:18.4). B.A.A. High Performance team member Sarah Pagano, was eighth in 34:09.0. The top Maine women’s finisher, Erica Jesseman, took home tenth in 34:52.5.