By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
ALBANY, N.Y. (03-Jun) — Taking a marathoner’s approach to this morning’s 39th Freihofer’s Run for Women 5-K, Sara Hall of Redding, Calif., saved her energy in the early kilometers and was rewarded with her first win here in 15:49, just two seconds up on recently-crowned USA 25-K champion Aliphine Tuliamuk of Santa Fe., N.M. Hall, who was second here last year, didn’t even intend to run this year’s race, but was only added to the field by elite athlete coordinator John Tope on Thursday.
“Sometimes you get lucky,” Tope told Race Results Weekly. “Two days ago she wasn’t in the field.”
Hall, 34, who recorded a marathon personal best of 2:28:26 in Tokyo last February, thought that she was going to be at a high school meet in California this weekend, instead.
“It was very last minute,” Hall explained. “I think I was confirmed three days ago, mainly because I thought that my oldest daughter was going to qualify for the state track championships, today. So, I didn’t have anything planned. When she didn’t, I just last-minute contacted them. I had trained really hard in the first half of the week thinking I wasn’t racing.”
Hall was content to let Tuliamuk, a natural front-runner, take the pace in the early going. The first 800 meters are uphill, and Hall didn’t feel comfortable being up front with Tuliamuk, Lindsey Scherf, Becky Wade, and Renee Metivier among others.
“I think it was the course for me; it’s really tough to go out hard up the steep hill,” Hall said. “I’m better at the downhills than the ups.”
Tuliamuk went through the first kilometer in 3:18, and realized that despite how hard it felt, she wasn’t going fast enough. So, she surged into Washington Park in the second kilometer, using the downhill to get a jump on the field.
“It’s a 5-K so I thought I don’t have a lot of time to sit around,” said Tuliamuk. “I didn’t expect to run that slow, I guess. I felt like I was going really fast, but then looking at the time, apparently, I wasn’t going that fast.”
Scherf followed, but Hall remained behind, comfortable where she was. She stayed back through the second kilometer, too, then took stock of her position. Her confidence was growing.
“Around a mile and a half (2.5 km), just the fact that I was still kind of within contact I just tried to focus on gaining a little ground, gaining a little ground, and then just (staying) within striking distance,” she said. She added: “I knew that as long as I had that momentum of chasing, versus last year when I was just a little too far back.”
Tuliamuk hit the 3-kilometer mark in 9:43, and Hall had already overtaken Scherf for second. The gap was about four seconds. When the race left the park just before the four-kilometer mark, Tuliamuk shot a look over her right shoulder to assess her lead. Hall was coming, but would not get close until the final 800-meters. Hall decided to wait, hoping that she could reconnect with the leg speed which made her a Fifth Avenue Mile champion nearly 11 years ago.
“It was fun to get those track instincts back,” Hall said of the final push to the line. She continued: “It kind of took me back to my track days.”
The pair swept down the hill to the finish on Washington Avenue in front of the New York State Capitol building. Tuliamuk was clearly tired, and Hall hit the gas hard in the last 50 meters to pass her. Hall ended up leading the race for fewer than 30 meters.
“I haven’t really been doing short races,” Hall admitted. “Those base instincts don’t always come back. In the marathon you’re never quite kicking like that. It’s more like your legs are just dead.”
Tuliamuk, who will race the NYRR New York Mini 10-K next Saturday in New York City, knew that Hall would be tough to beat in the final sprint.
“I’ve seen her race before,” said Tuliamuk. “I know that she has a good kick.”
Hall will collect $10,000 in prize money, while Tuliamuk will receive half that amount. Scherf, who was timed in 16:10, will collect $3000 for third place. Becky Wade (16:16/$2000) and Katie Matthews (16:19/$1000) rounded out the top-5.
Out of today’s 3268 entrants, 42 year-old Jen Rhines, of Boston, Mass., won the masters title in 17:14($750). She first raced here nearly two decades ago.
“Oh gosh, it was 19 years ago, now,” Rhines said of her first Freihofer’s when she was a recent graduate of Villanova University. “I can’t believe it.”