As the sun began to peak through early morning clouds, perfect racing conditions set up for fast times, with temperatures at 12°C (54°F) and just 29% humidity.
With a large pack of fifteen going through the mile in a relatively pedestrian 4:30, no athlete wanted to take the early leading duties. As the lead pack took their first turn slightly before two miles, Kenya’s Ed Muge (a two-time winner here), Wilson Chebet, Stephen Kibet, and newcomer Alan Kiprono, were joined by Gebremariam in a pack which had separated from the rest of the field. Also in the mix was Australia’s Shawn Forrest, making his professional road racing debut a memorable one by being the only non-African near the front. Forrest, a 2009 graduate of the University of Arkansas, kept exchanging the lead with Kibet and Kiprono through the halfway point, reached in 14:01.
“I was just having fun out there,” said Forrest, who surprised race founder and Olympic gold medallist Joan Samuelson with his performance.
“He looks so strong, one who could be a great marathoner someday,” remarked Samuelson, while riding in front of the pack in the press vehicle.
But within a kilometer, Chebet, Gebremariam, and Kibet began to pull away from Forrest and Kiprono. Clocking a 4:24 fourth mile on rolling terrain, it seemed to be a race between Chebet, Kibet, and Gebremariam.
But Kiprono, 20, wasn’t ready to give in. The Kenyan–racing for the first time in America–closed the five meter gap, joining the pack of three at the front and briefly taking the lead after passing Pond Cove, one of the most picturesque backdrops in road racing.
Entering Fort Williams Park for the final 800 meters, the four athletes exchanged the lead multiple times before hitting the final meters to the finish. With the grass stretch of 200 meters remaining, Gebremariam took over for Kibet, unleashing the same kick which gave him the World Cross Country title last year. It took the Ethiopian until the final meters to pass Kiprono, winning in a time of 27:40.4. Kiprono crossed in 27:41.7, while Chebet took third in 27:44.5.
“I hoped to break the race record,” Gebremariam said of his late charge, which fell 13 seconds short. “But it was fantastic.”
Gebremariam, who plans to run the Falmouth Road Race next weekend, stated that he knew early on in the race he that he could beat the rest of the field.
“I knew I could win from the start, even when they got two meters ahead of me. I knew because I am coming from the track, I ran 400 meters in 53 or 52 [seconds].”
The win here marks the third American road victory in four months for Gebremariam. In May, he won the Healthy Kidney 10K in New York’s Central Park, and on July 4th he won the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. Hhe broke 28 minutes in all three victories.
The women’s race played out to be much different than the men’s contest. From the start, the race was led by 22 year-old Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya. Taking the first mile out in 4:44, Chepkurui and Honda Los Angeles Marathon champion Edna Kiplagat had already broken away from the rest of the field, and even were on the tail end of the men’s elite field. Running alongside American record holder in the marathon Khalid Khannouchi, Chepkurui cruised through two miles in 9:54. For the next three miles, the youngest Kenyan in the field held a steady 10-meter lead.
Approaching Fort Williams, Chepkurui seemed in cruise control, keeping a smooth stride up and down the hills. Determined to break the course record, Chepkurui never let up, ultimately shattering the mark by over 25 seconds.
“I was trying to push it hard, to push our time, so I could manage my best time,” she said. “I knew my colleagues were very tough, and I was worried. I had to push the whole race, and I was lucky to cross the finish line when I did.”
Her final time of 30:59.4, though, was only six seconds ahead of the next fastest competitor, Wude Ayalew Yimer of Ethiopia. Ayalew chose to bide her time and wait until the second half of the race to pass Kiplagat, who eventually finished third. Ayalew’s performance was especially good considering she placed fourth at the African Championships in the 10,000 meters last week in Nairobi, Kenya.
Irene Limika, last year’s winner, placed a distant fourth, while five-time champion Catherine Ndereba finished sixth.
Both Gebremariam and Chepkurui earned $10,000 in prize money, but Chepkurui picked up an addition $2500 for breaking the course record.