By Chris Lotsbom, @chrislotsbom
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
FALMOUTH, MA, USA (20-Aug) — Kenya’s Caroline Chepkoech was determined to win her second straight New Balance Falmouth Road Race, and nothing was going to get in her way.
With a pack of seven reaching the mile in 5:19, Chepkoech was side-by-side with Mary Wacera, Mamitu Daska, Diane Nukuri, and Lineth Chepkirui as Americans Lindsey Scherf and Natosha Rogers kept touch behind. Ironically, racing along Nantucket Sound it was a sea of blue up front: each woman from East Africa was sporting an ocean-blue top, while the Americans raced along in red and black.
After hearing the two mile split of 10:34, Chepkoech seemed spooked. She immediately shot out to a ten step lead that became 20 seconds by three miles. The pitter patter of the pack’s shoes was replaced by the lonely jingle of Chepkoech’s long necklace bobbing left to right, right to left, down the early hills.
With subsequent miles of 5:02 and 5:07, Chepkoech slammed the door on any chance she’d be caught. Hitting the tunnel of cheers all alone, Chepkoech kept her tempo while Nukuri, Daska, and Wacera battled for second place. On a warm and humid day, Chepkoech didn’t even grab a single cup of water. She seemed unfazed by the conditions.
“The reality was we were racing for second, the way she took off,” said Nukuri, three times and Olympian for Burundi.
Chepkoech charged into Falmouth Heights with 35:53 on the clock to win the $10,000 top prize. She’d also win the gender challenge bonus over the men, and finished a full minute ahead of runner-up Wacera (36:53). It was the largest margin of victory since 1982 when Joan Benoit won by 1:08 over Dianne Rodger.
“I am happy! I am so happy for defending, and for last year,” said the soft-spoken Chepkoech. “I was giving everything… I was racing to go in front. When I see back I saw nobody can follow me and I tried to push, push. I feel lucky, I am happy, and I feel strong!”
Nukuri was third in 36:57, while Daska, an Ethiopian, placed fourth in 37:00. Jess Tonn of the Brooks Beasts ran strategically and managed to claim top American honors after passing Rogers near the six mile mark. Tonn had been side-by-side with Neely Gracey for most of the way, but managed to create a bit of separation in the final kilometer. She’d place sixth in 37:49 to Gracey’s 37:52. Rogers wound up eight in 38:07.
“For me, today the goal was just to battle for the top eight or five or so spots,” Tonn said. “First American was definitely in the back of my mind the whole time, but having it be my first Falmouth Road Race I wanted to be super conservative over the first three miles,” Tonn said. “Once I hit my host family’s house right before mile five, the Green family, I really wanted to just hit it hard from there until the big hill you guys put there at the end. I had so much fun, I had a blast and had a lot of fun battling with Neely the whole time, and Natosha and Lindsey out there.”