Ideal conditions, fast times highlight 10th Annual Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon presented by SunTrust.
Written by: Mario Fraioli and Dan Cruz
Hurricane Earl was a no show this weekend in Virginia Beach, but Kenya’s Yusuf Songoka and Japan’s Madoka Ogi made their presences felt in a big way on Sunday, winning the 10th Annual Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon presented by SunTrust in 1:02:46 and 1:14:17, respectively.
Songoka, who posted three podium finishes here from 2005 through 2007, out-sprinted countryman Patrick Ivuti (2nd, 1:02:51) and Ethiopia’s Tesfiye Sendeku (3rd, 1:03:09) in the final half mile of the famous Virginia Beach Boardwalk to claim his first Rock ‘n’ Roll victory.
“I feel at home here,” said the 31-year-old Sangoka. “Six years running the race–4th 3rd, 3rd, 2nd–to win is a privilege and a good preparation for my fall marathon.”
Songoka, Ivuti and Sendeku battled relentlessly for 13.1 miles, separating themselves early on in the race from the rest of the field. Passing 10K in 29:15, the two Kenyans alternated surges, trying to drop their Ethiopian rival, who began to massage his right hamstring, which admittedly affected him the rest of the way.
“My hamstring began bothering me at 10K,” said Sendeku, who briefly held the lead in the second mile.
The top American finisher in the race was John Crews of Raleigh, North Carolina, who finished ninth on 1:06:23. Crews, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at at North Carolina State who won last November’s Philadelphia Marathon, is preparing for the Baltimore Marathon on October 16.
“I’m pleased with the effort, not quite the time,” Crews admitted. “My legs felt pretty good early and I was on a decent pace through 7 or 8 miles. The Japanese runners had a good group through 5 (miles) and just as I caught up they took off. This wasn’t a great day, but it wasn’t a bad day.”
Ogi won the women’s race in convincing fashion, separating herself at halfway to claim victory by well over a minute in front of New Zealand’s Fiona Docherty, who finished second in 1:15:39.
“I felt if I could attack the second half I would have the chance to win it,” Ogi said after the race.
Docherty, a former world class triathlete turned world-class runner, posted her second straight Rock ‘n’ Roll Runner-up finished. She placed second at last month’s the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon.
The women’s began race began 15 minutes before the men, with reigning Olympic Marathon champion Constanitina Dita leading the charge with a 5:36 first mile. The leaders passed 5K in 17:30, opening a 24 second gap on the chase pack. After hitting the 10k mark in 35:15, Ogi pushed the pace, posting the fastest 5K split of the of the day (16:43), to open up a large gap that propelled her to victory. The 40-year-old Dita, who was not in top form for the race, held on for a fourth-place finish in 1:17:20.
This was the sixth year that Japan has sent elite runners from their various national corporate championships to Virginia Beach. While the Japanese women had posted third place finished on two previous occasions, never before had a Japanese runner won the race.
Hometown hero Renee High of Virginia Beach was the top American in the women’s race, edging out Great Britain’s Nicky Archer at the finish line to place seventh in a personal-best of 1:18:05. High, whose previous personal best was 1:18:32, took almost two minutes off her course-record time of 1:20:22 set at the Lynchburg Half Marathon last month.
With Hurricane Earl passing through the area two days before the event, the start line temperature of 67 degrees with 64-percent percent humidity proved to be the best weather conditions in the race’s ten-year history. More than 18,000 athletes took advantage of the ideal conditions, enjoying the blue skies and beachside party that followed the race. Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon will headline Sunday evening’s post-race concert.