Braun Prevails At Manchester Road Race

Aaron Braun pulls away at Manchester. Photo: Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly

Delilah DiCrescenzo won the women’s division.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

MANCHESTER, CONN. — On a picture-perfect Thanksgiving Day on Thursday morning, Aaron Braun and Delilah DiCrescenzo won the Manchester Road Race in convincing fashion, with Braun equaling the men’s race record in his debut at the event. The 76th edition of Connecticut’s largest road race attracted a sold-out 15,000 entrants.

Braun, 25, who lives and trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., asserted himself early in the race, taking the lead midway through the first mile. Braun –who was at the front of a huge lead pack which included Donn Cabral, Ciaran O’Lionard, Bobby Mack, and Haron Lagat — knew he could be aggressive on the hilly 4.748-mile course because of a recent workout he did under coach Greg McMillan.

“A week ago I did a four-mile time trial at altitude, so I knew coming down here I wanted to make it feel about the same effort,” said Braun. “Obviously, that’s going to equate to faster times at sea level.”

The lead pack split the first mile in a snappy 4:22, but the real test lay ahead: the sustained mile-long climb up Charter Oak Street. Braun leaned into the hill, pressed the pace, and four runners eased away from the main field: Braun, Tim Ritchie, Lagat and Mack. The quartet ran 5:01 for the second mile, cresting the hill together. At that point, Braun started to feel that he hadn’t been aggressive enough with the pace.

“That second mile, I thought I would have been able to run under 4:50 but it ended up being five minutes,” Braun explained. “I knew the record was 4:30 pace, so that second mile kind of put me behind.”

Braun opened up his stride on the steep downhill, ran the third mile in 4:20, and quickly put a gap on the field. Lagat, who won here in 2009, was now running alone in second, while Cabral and Tyler Pennel had passed Ritchie and had caught Mack. That trio were now battling for third. Lagat, who has a 3:58 mile personal best, did his best to stay with Braun’s loping strides, but soon realized that the victory was slipping away.

“He’s an animal, man,” Lagat said of Braun. “I thought I was going to get him because I know the course really well and I thought he went really hard and was going to come back.”

After he rounded the final left turn onto Main Street for the finish, Braun shot a glace over his shoulder and saw Lagat. He knew he had to keep pressing to get the win and possibly break Philimon Hanneck’s 1995 race record of 21:19.

“I knew that I had developed a gap but I didn’t know how much,” Braun said. “I just wanted to check back real quick to see where people were. I saw him, and he was a little closer than I was hoping.”

With Main Street packed with fans on both sides, Braun sprinted up the short, but steep, hill to the finish, stopping the clock at 21:19.4 seconds. Because Hanneck’s time was recorded manually, organizers said that although Braun’s official time would be 21:20, that it was equal to Hanneck’s 21:19 race record. Braun, however, wasn’t as concerned about the record as he was the victory. He hadn’t won a significant race since the Mt. SAC 5000m in April, 2011.

“Road racing is all about placing,” Braun said. “Sometimes it’s about time, but at an odd distance like this time doesn’t really matter. It had been too long since I won a race.”

Lagat had to settle for second in 21:31, while Cabral — who grew up in nearby Glastonbury — beat Bobby Mack for third place in the final sprint to the tape. Both men were given the same time (21:33), and Cabral said he was helped by the many fans who shouted his name along the course.

“Honestly, every 100 meters somebody was shouting, ‘Go Donny or go Donn,’” Cabral recounted. “Only my last name was printed on my bib and I wasn’t wearing my Glastonbury jersey. Everyone knew me.”

DICRESCZENZO GETS SPRINT WIN OVER UHL

For Delilah DiCrescenzo, 29, a 9:40 steeplechaser from New York, both her strength and leg speed helped her to victory over 10,000m specialist Lisa Uhl who was running the race for the first time. The two woman had dropped Burundian Olympic marathoner Diane Nukuri Johnson just after the four-mile mark.

“At the four-mile mark it was pretty much me and Delilah,” said Uhl, who finished 13th in last summer’s Olympic Games 10,000m. “I tried to make a move there because I know Delilah has speed. I was, like, if I can break her here I’ve got it. I thought I had it with 400 to go.”

But DiCrescenzo, who was running Manchester for the third time and was second here in 2010, knew the course well, and timed her final push to the finish well.

“I was feeling really good, but with 800 to go you’re always doubting yourself,” said DiCrescenzo, who is coached by Frank Gagliano of the NJ-NY Track Club. “So, I noticed that my breathing was pretty good, so I just went.”

DiCrescenzo powered up the final hill to the finish to win in 24:34, her first road racing victory since winning the NYRR 5 Mile in November, 2010. Uhl finished five seconds behind, and Nukuri-Johnson got third in 24:46.

Well behind the leaders, Runner’s World editor-at-large Amby Burfoot finished his 50th consecutive Manchester Road Race. Burfoot, 66, jogged the course in about 53 minutes with his adult children, Daniel and Laura. It was an emotional day for the 9-time Manchester winner.

“It floods me with memories,” Burfoot said. “There were a few times walking up to the start that I felt a tear in my eyes thinking of those who had gone before me and are no longer with us. That faded quickly… and I tried just to enjoy being part of it.”

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