Chepkirui Runs Away With Women’s Title
In the women’s contest, it was the Joyce Chepkirui show. Before even passing the mile mark and historic Nobska Lighthouse, Chepkirui and Kenyan compatriot Linet Masai had broken from the pack of about eight women.
The two would run together — Chepkirui always doing the leading duties with Masai a step behind — ultimately gaining a 20-second advantage on the field by the third mile. In the chase pack behind, Britain’s Gemma Steel and Burundi’s Diane Nukuri-Johnson worked together trying to keep the Kenyans in sight.
“She didn’t give us a chance really, she took off from the start,” said Steel, 27, with a laugh.
Midway through the third mile, it appeared as if it would be an all-African duel to the finish. Both Masai and Chepkirui looked focused on the task at hand, passing the ocean and sandy beaches without even the slightest look to the side.
Chepkirui’s big break came as the pair approached the four-mile mark. Within a matter of seconds, Masai went from on her shoulder to 10 meters back.
“I am coming back from injury so my body is not great now. I am still struggling, not feeling well but I hope I will feel better soon,” Masai told Race Results Weekly, explaining that her calf has been giving her trouble, forcing her to slow down.
With the loss of Masai, Chepkirui had the roads all to herself. For the remaining three miles, she would rule the pavement, her only challenge being the final hill a half mile from the finish which organizers have dubbed “Little Heartbreak.”
“The last mile was very hard for me, because of the hill is very steep,” said Chepkirui.
For Masai, the final miles would be even harder. Little by little the former IAAF World Champion over 10,000m fell back towards the waiting Steel and Nukuri-Johnson. What once was a 10-second gap between Masai and the chasers soon became 5 seconds; shortly after reaching the six-mile mark, Masai was caught.
While Chepkirui broke the tape comfortably in front in 36:42.8, the battle was on for second. Storming down the final downhill, Steel turned on the jets to edge Masai by a meter, giving a pump of the fist as she crossed the line.
“I think it was my mental strength today to catch her,” said Steel, who timed 37:05.8. “It’s just a dream really to pull it out of the bag when it matters.”
Masai wound up third in 37:06.5, with Nukuri-Johnson fourth in 37:15.2.
The show belonged to Chepkirui, though, who became the seventh Kenyan women to win the race since 2000.
“It feels very good to win again,” said Chepkirui, who is based in Iten. Chepkirui’s win is her second in eight days, as she was victorious at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K last Saturday.
Finishing in sixth as the top American was Alexi Pappas. The 23-year-old was spurred on by many of her Dartmouth College teammates and friends along the course, including NCAA champion Abbey D’Agostino and coach Mark Coogan.
On the eve of today’s race, Coogan spoke with Pappas and told her to be tough and to expect the pain. That, combined with the advice American marathoner Deena Kastor gave her last week — to take in the crowd and use it as an advantage — Pappas had the best race she could’ve imagined.
“It’s just really amazing,” she said. “It’s been an amazing weekend and something I am really going to reflect on. I’m proud of it but I’m ready for more.”