RRW: Eric Jenkins, Edna Kiplagat Win Blustery Manchester Road Race

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2019 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

MANCHESTER, CONN. (28-Nov) — Using smart tactics to minimize the impact of unusually strong winds, Eric Jenkins and Edna Kiplagat won today’s 83rd Manchester Road Race here his morning by clear margins.  Jenkins, 28, who grew up in Maine but now lives in Portland, Ore., and Kiplagat, 40, a Kenyan who lives full-time in Boulder, Colo., clocked 21:19 and 24:30, respectively, fast times considering the moderately cold, but very windy, conditions.  Indeed, Jenkins’s finish time was just three seconds off the event record set by Edward Cheserek of Kenya last year.  Both athletes won $7000 in prize money.

Eric Jenkins wins the 2019 Manchester Road Race in 21:19 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Both Jenkins and Kiplagat were careful not to use too much energy in first two miles of the 4.748-mile/7.65-kilometer race which features a continuous climb for more than a mile on Highland Street in the second mile.  Jenkins was part of a 13-man lead pack at the first mile mark (4:18) which featured all of the race’s big contenders: Cheserek; Andy Butchart and Chris Thompson of Great Britain; Hillary Bor and Abbibya Simbassa of Colorado Springs; Ben Flanagan of Canada; and Jordan Mann of Providence, R.I.

Article continues below player

The race offers a “King and Queen of the Hill” prime of $1000 just before the two-mile mark, and Cheserek surged with Bor and collected the bonus by just one step.  Jenkins, however, held steady, saving his energy for the remainder of the climb before the race turns left and sharply downhill onto Porter Street.  Just before the crest, the two mile mark was passed in 9:16, and Cheserek, Jenkins, Butchart, and Bor were still together.

On the steep descent, the race began to break up, at least temporarily.  Cheserek, Jenkins and Butchart pulled away from their rivals, but facing a gusting headwind the trio pulled close together to fight the wind.  They slowed a bit, allowing Simbassa, Bor and Mann to catch up again, and through three miles (13:43) six men were together and it was still any man’s race.

About three minutes later, Cheserek made his bid for victory.  He surged, taking Butchart with him and –it appeared– leaving Jenkins behind.  Cheserek hit the four-mile mark in 18:14 and a minute later was controlling the race from the front.  He had a three-meter lead on Butchart when he turned left onto Main Street for the final half-mile to the finish.  Jenkins was well behind, and it looked like the top-3 places had already been sorted.

But Jenkins had other ideas.  Using the downhill just after the turn to his advantage, he gently upped his tempo and focused on catching Butchart.

“I was just working on kind of catching Butchart,” Jenkins told reporters later.  “He got a bit of a gap on me.  Then, once I started to go downhill I knew I was going to get Butchart.”

Jenkins soon passed the Scotsman on the left side of the roadway.  Cheserek was already near the bottom of the hill about to tackle the final, short climb to the finish line, when Jenkins shifted to his top gear.

“It’s one of those great things about racing where when I could tell I was gaining on him, and he could tell that I was coming,” Jenkins said.

He passed Cheserek on the Kenyan’s left, and there was no response.  Cheserek looked behind him and immediately realized he was now running for second.  Jenkins had the finish line to himself, breaking the tape with his arms outstretched.

“I was just trying to stay as strong as I could for those last few meters,” said Jenkins who was worried he had started to sprint too early.

Cheserek was timed in 21:22 and finished one second ahead of Butchart.  Simbassa came fourth in 21:31, Bor in fifth in 21:34 and Mann in sixth in 21:42.  Steeplechaser Donn Cabral, who grew up in nearby Glastonbury and has run the race over a dozen times, was seventh in 22:09.

Like Jenkins, Kiplagat let her rivals fight it out for the “Queen of the Hill” prime where Violah Lagat of Kenya edged Molly Seidel of Boston to pick up the $1000 payment.  Indeed, she was only in fourth position when she crested the hill behind Lagat, Seidel, and Sally Kipyego of Eugene, Ore.

“This year I tried not too start fast,” said Kiplagat who admitted that she went out too hard here in 2016 and faded in the second half.  “I just wanted to maintain.”

But on the downhill, Kiplagat showed her mastery of downhill running, a skill she used in winning the 2017 Boston Marathon.

“I’m good in downhills so that’s where I catch up,” she said.

She caught the leading trio, passed them, and built up a 13-second lead by the finish.  Kipyego, Seidel and Nell Rojas of Boulder, Colo., battled for second place in the final sprint.  Kipyego was given second in 24:43, Seidel third in the same time, and Rojas fourth in 24:44.  Sharon Lokedi, another Kenyan, was fifth in 24:49, and an exhausted Lagat had to settle for seventh, passed by Aisling Cuffe of North Grafton, Mass.

“I am happy that I won the race this year,” said Kiplagat who left Boulder a day early to avoid an incoming snow storm.  She added: “It’s great.”

Well behind the elites, 73 year-old Amby Burfoot, a nine-time Manchester winner, completed the race for the 57th consecutive year.  His finish time was not immediately available.