By Jonathan Gault
August 6, 2016
CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — As the lead truck sped alongside the Atlantic Ocean through Fort Williams Park toward the finish line of the 2016 TD Beach to Beacon 10K, a radio crackled with the news that Ben True had just taken the lead from William Malel Sitonik (26:54 at Pre, 4th at Kenyan Trials) and Dathan Ritzenhein with 600 meters to go in the race. True’s agent, Matt Lane, sitting in the third row of the makeshift bleachers assembled in the bed of the pickup, didn’t even need to see the finish. He knew the race was over.
“Physically, he’s great and psychologically he’s really, really pissed off,” Lane told his fellow riders about 90 seconds before his client proved him correct, in the process becoming the first American in the race’s 19-year history to claim top honors in 28:17 (officially 28:16.3).
The source of True’s frustration were the events of one month ago, when he bombed out of the U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000 (DNF) and finished fifth in the 5,000, less than half a second off making his first Olympic team. Since then, True has been trying to exorcise the demons of that week in Eugene — easier said than done in a sport where the biggest event comes around once every four years. The wounds are still fresh, but today’s result should help the healing process.
Like True, women’s champ Mary Keitany was still trying to get over the fact that she won’t be running the marathon in Rio this year (True actually will be in Rio, but only in a support role for his wife, triathlete Sarah). Keitany answered in the best possible way, running 30:45 to crush the course record (previously 30:59) and win by a colossal 54 seconds. It was Keitany’s second course record in eight days, as she also broke the old mark at the Bix 7 last week in Iowa. After two dominant runs on the American roads, it’s hard not to think about the image of Keitany in a Kenyan singlet in Rio and ask “What if?”
True took home $15,000 for the win ($10,000 for the win, $5,000 for top American) while Keitany earned $12,500 ($10,000 for the win, $2,500 for the CR).
The early pace was extremely slow, with 20 men passing the first mile marker together in a glacial 4:51. Conditions (overcast, 72 degrees and humid) were fine; this was simply a case of no one wanting to make the first move. Upon seeing the clock, Ritzenhein was the first to react and he dropped a 4:38 second mile before hitting the gas on the downhill just after two miles, True sticking to his shoulder like glue. Ritz backed off just before three miles (13:57, 4:28 split) as True took over up front.
“At that point, I decided to tuck back around and see if they would keep the pace going because it had started to thin out a little bit,” Ritzenhein said later.
In all, there were six men in the front pack — True, Ritz and last year’s top American, Eric Jenkins, along with Kenyans Sitonik, Daniel Salel and Micah Kogo.
Sitonik edged into the lead during mile four as Jenkins began to drop off before blasting the downhill section of Shore Road and quickly opening up a 10-meter gap. The fourth mile (18:26, 4:26 split) was the fastest of the race to that point, and though Sitonik maintained a gap on the chasers — now down to Ritz, True and Salel — Ritz made sure it never reached more than 25 meters. He was helped by Sitonik’s inexperience; instead of running tangents, the Kenyan drifted to the outside on several turns, costing him valuable time.
Still, Sitonik was putting the hammer down, hard and when he hit five miles (22:44, 4:21 split), he had two seconds on Ritzenhein, with True another second behind. But True kept it close and took the lead on the final hill before entering Fort Williams Park, unleashing a burst of speed with 600 to go. Sitonik was spent by that point and Ritzenhein, whose primary distance is now the marathon, had no way of responding. As the adoring crowd cheered him home, native son True threw up his hands in celebration, making history as the first American — and first Mainer — to win here in 19 years.
Ritz outdueled Sitonik for runner-up honors, but finished 11 seconds back of True — all coming over the final 600 meters.
Results (courtesy Cool Running)
1 1/10 MOPEN 28:17# 28:17 4:33 Ben True 30 M 2 West Lebanon NH USA 2 2/10 MOPEN 28:28# 28:28 4:35 Dathan Ritzenhein 33 M 7 Belmont MI USA 3 3/10 MOPEN 28:32# 28:32 4:36 William Malel Sitonik 22 M 1 KEN 4 4/10 MOPEN 28:44# 28:44 4:38 Daniel Salel 25 M 4 KEN 5 5/10 MOPEN 28:58# 28:58 4:40 Micah Kogo 30 M 9 England KEN 6 6/10 MOPEN 29:09# 29:08 4:42 Sam Chelanga 31 M 8 Tuscon AZ USA 7 7/10 MOPEN 29:10# 29:10 4:42 Eric Jenkins 24 M 5 USA 8 8/10 MOPEN 29:16# 29:16 4:43 Abdirahman Abdihakim 39 M 13 Tucson AZ USA 9 9/10 MOPEN 29:21# 29:21 4:44 Patrick Smyth 30 M 15 Santa Fe NM USA 10 10/10 MOPEN 29:27# 29:26 4:45 Joe Bosshard 26 M 20 Boulder CO USA 11 1/280 M2529 29:37# 29:37 4:46 Brendan Gregg 27 M 14 Davis CA USA 12 2/280 M2529 29:57 29:57 4:50 Maverick Darling 29 M 19 Madison WI USA 13 1/386 M3034 30:18 30:18 4:53 Markos Geneti 32 M 12 ETH 14 3/280 M2529 30:35 30:35 4:56 Tariku Bekele 29 M 11 ETH 15 4/280 M2529 30:44 30:43 4:57 Ruben Sanca 29 M 16 Lowell MA USA 16 5/280 M2529 30:51 30:51 4:58 Riley Masters 26 M 18 Seattle WA USA
Quick Take #1: Ben True makes history
True’s fitness is very good — you don’t run 3:36 for 1500 and come just short of making the Olympic team without being in good shape. But he’s also one of the U.S.’s most versatile runners, with the ability to succeed on the roads, track and cross country, and his unique skill set helped him end the American drought at Beach to Beacon today. True has trained in Hanover, N.H., which sits in a valley, for most of the past 12 years and as a result he’s become adept at running hills. He used that to his advantage today, pushing the hilly sections of the course and making his break on the short uphill just before the runners entered the Fort.
True, who was third here two years ago, was also helped by the fact that Sitonik had never run on the roads before, though he said he did not think that was a major factor in his victory (a point his 11-second margin of victory supports).
“The major difference between a road race and a track race is a track race is really all rhythm and is just sticking to a rhythm where on the roads, with the uphills, downhills and turns, it’s much more broken up and you have to keep changing your pace,” True said. “If you’re not used to that much changing of pace and effort, then I guess it could wear on you a bit more.”
True has one more race planned for 2016, the 5,000 in Zurich on September 1.
Quick Take #2: Dathan Ritzenhein was pleased with another solid run; thinks he’s capable of something “special” in November’s NYC Marathon
Ritzenhein was happy with how he ran today, and he did a good job of staying competitive when Sitonik threatened to breakaway, never allowing the Kenyan to gap him. Ritz’s only possible regret was allowing the race to go out a little on the slow side as he knew that he would not be favored in a kick with True should it come down to the final 800 or so (Ritz never runs anything faster than 62-second quarters these days).
Ritz was also helped by Sitonik’s inexperience on the roads, which may have contributed to the four-second difference between the two men at the finish.
“He’s a novice, I guess, his first road race,” Ritz said. “It’s amazing cutting the tangents. you cut the tangent on a two-lane road like that, you can cut off 10-15 feet pretty easy. So that was the difference in that [four] seconds [I was ahead of him].”
Ritz said that this summer’s training block has put him in a great place heading into his next marathon buildup.
“Sitonik obviously pushed Mo [Farah] at Pre pretty good and came off the Kenyan Trials, ran really well there. For me to be right in there, I feel pretty good about where I’m at really. I’ve written track out of my mind but I can get in and mix it up in this stuff still and I feel really good about where I’m at going into New York. Now I just need to take a rest week here, recharge a little bit make sure the body’s 100 percent. I think I can have a really special race in New York.”
Quick Take #3: Running extra distance hurt, but the humidity killed for William Sitonik
Sitonik was not ready for New England’s humidity today and said it really hit him with a kilometer to go, where he totally ran out of gas. Kitonik tried to drink during the race but because he’d never run a road race before, he had no experience drinking from cups while on the move. As a result, he wasn’t able to get many fluids down today, which he feels hurt his chances.
Quick Take #4: Other notables
Sam Chelanga and Eric Jenkins, both of whom raced last week at the TrackTown Summer Series in Eugene, fell off the pace during the second half of the race and finished 6th and 7th overall. Chelanga said he was tired from his win in the four-mile road race last week. I didn’t speak to Jenkins, but 10k may be a little far for him right now — he DNF’d in the 10k at the Trials and just ran a 1500 pb of 3:35.94 in Eugene. Tariku Bekele still has a long way to go in his comeback from Achilles and calf injuries as he was 14th in 30:35, only 10 seconds ahead of Keitany’s time (though the two were never close as the women started separately).
As in the men’s race, the women’s race (utilizing a separate, earlier start for the first time) went out slowly, with 12 women running the downhill first mile in 5:18. But even that pedestrian opening split couldn’t stop Keitany, who soon imposed her will on the field. She strung out the field with a 5:03 second mile and after running her next mile in 4:56, the lead pack consisted of just Keitany and defending champ Wude Ayalew. But soon even Ayalew was hurting, and Keitany nonchalantly moved away from her along Shore Road. She cruised from there, covering the final 3.2 miles in a ridiculous 15:30 (14:59 5k pace) despite zero competition. It was an awe-inspiring display from the tiny woman in the teal singlet.
Lineth Chepkirui‘s six-year-old course record of 30:59 was left in tatters as Keitany crossed in 30:45; the new mark should stand for some time. In the battle for top American honors, Providence grad Emily Sisson prevailed, edging Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton by three seconds, 32:20 to 32:24. Sisson was taken to the medical tent after the race, where she was wrapped in blankets. I did not get a chance to speak to her.
Results (courtesy Cool Running)
1 30:45.0# 4:57 Mary Keitany 34 F 103 KEN
New record. Old record 30:59.4 by Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya in 2010
2 31:39.8# 5:06 Wude Ayalew 29 F 100 ETH
3 32:02.8# 5:10 Caroline Chepkoech-Kipki 22 F 118 KEN
4 32:20.7# 5:13 Emily Sisson 24 F 113 Providence RI USA
5 32:24.0# 5:13 Aliphine Tuliamuk 27 F 119 Santa Fe NM USA
6 32:45.1# 5:17 Sara Hall 33 F 107 Redding CA USA
7 33:04.0# 5:20 Jordan Hasay 24 F 105 Beaverton OR USA
8 33:14.7# 5:22 Gladys Yator 23 F 112 KEN
9 33:22.4# 5:23 Maddie Van Beek 24 F 117 Fargo ND USA
10 33:49.4 5:27 Elaina Balouris 24 F 104 Brighton MA USA
11 33:56 5:28 Emma Bates 24 F 108 Brighton MA USA
12 34:23 5:32 Lily Partridge 24 F 111 Tongham GBR
13 34:33 5:34 Susanna Sullivan 26 F 96 Falls Church VA USA
16 34:46 5:36 Marci Klimek 28 F 94 Cambridge MA USA
17 34:48 5:36 Ashley Higginson 27 F 115 Clinton NJ USA
18 34:53 5:37 Michelle Lilienthal 34 F 123 Portland ME USA
Quick Take #1: A monumental performance from Keitany
Keitany’s 30:45 was fast (only nine women have ever run faster on the roads, though Keitany’s mark is not record-eligible as the Beach to Beacon course is point to point), but it was only enough to tie her PB as she also split 30:45 as part of her half marathon world record (since broken) back at the 2011 RAK Half. But when you consider Keitany only went out in 5:18 for the downhill first mile, it’s clear she could have gone much, much faster today — well under 30:40.
“I thought maybe the ladies [would] go with me further,” Keitany said. “In any case, when I was at three miles, my body was moving and [none] of them were remaining…When I was [at] 5 miles, somebody was saying ‘You’re gonna go and break the course record.” Then I say, ‘Wow, if I’m still in this pace, let me maintain…I’m really happy. It was amazing to me because winning two races with a course record, it’s good to me.”
There’s no perfect way to convert 10K times to the marathon, but Keitany’s last two results clearly show that the 34-year-old is extremely fit. If only she were in Rio right now…
Keitany will fly back to Kenya tomorrow and begin preparing for a fall marathon. Should she run New York (which is looking likely), she’d have a chance to join the legendary Grete Waitz as the only women to won three straight NYC titles.
Quick Thought #2: It’s an absolute joke that Keitany isn’t on the Kenyan Olympic Marathon team
Keitany is the second fastest woman in history in the marathon (thanks to the fact a few druggies have been wiped off the record books) at 2:18:37. She’s won the last two NYC marathon titles. She was 2nd at London in 2015 as well. How that doesn’t get her on the Kenyan Olympic team is beyond us. The whole point of selecting a team – which is what Kenya does – is to select the best three runners. Instead, Kenya seemingly only looked at the spring marathon results (Keitany was 9th in London).
If an American woman medals in Rio in the marathon, they should send a thank you note to the idiots at Athletics Kenya who left Keitany off the team.
Talk about the race on the messageboard: *MB: Ben MF True 1 and Ritz 2 at Beach 2 Beacon. 1st American win ever.
*MB: Ritz is totally pumped after Beach to Beacon: “I think I can have a really special race in New York.”