Desisa, Smith Win B.A.A. Half Marathon

Kim Smith won the B.A.A. Distance Medley for the second year in a row with her victory on Sunday. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Kim Smith and Stephen Sambu capture B.A.A. Distance Medley crowns.

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

BOSTON — Lelisa Desisa and Kim Smith prevailed victorious at the 13th running of the B.A.A. Half Marathon on Sunday, both setting new course records in the process. New Zealand’s Smith also won the B.A.A. Distance Medley and its $100,000 prize, as did Kenya’s Stephen Sambu on the men’s side.

PHOTOS: 2013 B.A.A. Half Marathon

BOSTON MARATHON CHAMPION DESISA RETURNS TO SET COURSE RECORD

Lelisa Desisa has found a home in Boston. In April, the Ethiopian 23-year-old won the 117th Boston Marathon, then returned two months later to place second at the B.A.A. 10K. On Sunday, Desisa claimed yet another victory in the Massachusetts capital city, setting a new course record of 1:00:34 to win the B.A.A. Half Marathon.

“When I win I am happy,” said the quiet Desisa. “I like Boston. I like the people of Boston. And I am one of the people of Boston.”

Desisa used his adoration for the city — and the support shown from its citizens — to win the 13.1-mile contest through the Jamaica Plain and Dorchester neighborhoods.

Coming into the race, Desisa –the only man entered to have run under 60:00 for the half-marathon — was battling a head cold. He wouldn’t let any illness get in between him and the $6,000 first place prize, though.

Sticking with a large lead group through the opening miles, Desisa was building up as much energy as he could for the race’s final stretch. At ten miles — hit in 46:04 — he was right where he wanted to be: among a pack. Joining him were Kenyans Daniel Salel, Stephen Sambu, Sam Chelanga, and Lanni Rutto. Notably missing was Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam, who stopped between miles six and seven.

“The three or four guys from Kenya are very fast so I follow them. Then after ten miles I ran to win and ran as fast as possible,” he said.

Though Desisa was increasing his pace, he couldn’t quite shake Kenyans Salel and Sambu. For Salel and Sambu, more than just the B.A.A. Half Marathon title was on the line. Both were in contention for the three-race B.A.A. Distance Medley crown and it’s $100,000 prize, the largest non-marathon award in road racing.

Entering today’s contest, Sambu held a 26-second advantage on reigning B.A.A. Half Marathon champion Allan Kiprono, and a 32 second cushion on Salel. One male and one female with the lowest cumulative time between April’s B.A.A. 5K, June’s B.A.A. 10K, and today’s B.A.A. Half Marathon would earn the $100,000 check.

Time to worry about prize money would come after the race’s conclusion, though.

Running through the Franklin Park Zoo with roughly a mile remaining, Desisa managed to pull away from both Kenyans. Crossing the finish in 1:00:34, Desisa had broken the previous course record by a whopping minute and ten seconds.

All Desisa could do was emphasize his love of Boston following the win.

“I see when I won Boston Marathon in 2013 that they give me support,” he said. “I am happy when I see the people of Boston.”

Will Desisa return to Boston for next April’s Marathon? Count on it.

“I will come back to Boston. I win, and will do more training to do Boston again,” he said. “I will come again.”

Salel, second, and Sambu, third, were given the same finish time of 1:00:41. Place didn’t matter to Sambu, though. All he cared about was the Medley standings, which he clinched with ease.

“When I entered the stadium I knew I was going to win,” said Sambu, who trains with Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Bernard Lagat under coach James Li in Arizona. “When I was over there I knew I was going to win so I was very happy.”

With the $100,000, Sambu plans to build a water filtration and purification system at home in Eldoret, Kenya.

“I am so happy because now I am going to Kenya and bring clean water, give back,” said the recent graduate of the University of Arizona.

Rounding out the top five were Chelanga (fourth, 1:01:04) and Rutto (fifth, 1:01:32). Sixth went to last year’s champion in Allan Kiprono, while Jeffrey Eggleston crossed as the top American, seventh in 1:03:41.

“I was in really good shape coming into the race, getting ready for the ING New York City Marathon,” he said. “It’s a pretty good day, a great tune up heading into New York City.”

Aaron Braun placed ninth, and gave props to the top finishers.

“Running 61 low or 60-high, 60-mid here is like running 59-flat on a fast course,” he said, noting how hilly and challenging the course is. “I didn’t expect it to be that fast.”

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