Choge, Diribe Outrun Americans in Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

Kenya’s Augustine Choge (left) and Ethiopia’s Buze Diribe won the 2016 American Association for Cancer Research Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Sept. 18. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Running most of the race alone, Kenya’s Augustine Choge powered through 13.1 miles to win this year’s edition of the American Association for Cancer Research Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. The 29-year-old broke the finish-line tape in front of the city’s iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art in a blistering 1 hour, 3 minutes, 25 seconds.

For Choge, his first attempt at the half marathon was all about participation. “Even though I ran most of it alone, I felt connected to all of the people in this beautiful city who came out to cheer for me and other runners,” he said. “I felt good. This was my first time racing this distance and I think it is a good first step.”

Despite covering the course at an average of 4:51 per mile, Choge had enough energy at the finish to make the rounds among the fans, giving them high fives and stopping to take photos with them. “I am proud of them,” he said the spectators. “They encouraged me. Without them here, I could not run as fast by myself.”

Choge’s only rival was fellow Kenyan Stephen Sambu who was wearing the No. 1 bib. Sambu ran stride-for-stride with Choge until the 10K mark (reached at 30:00), when Choge made his move, leaving Sambu in his wake. Sambu eventually dropped out of the race, saying he felt dizzy.

Second place in the men’s division went to American Scott Smith of Flagstaff, Arizona. Smith, who has already won a Rock ‘n’ Roll series race in San Diego, said afterwards that he wanted to win in Philadelphia. “I’m a bit disappointed in not winning, but I’m pleased with second.” Smith’s time in Philadelphia on Sunday was 1:05:03. “The course was great,” he admitted. “It was a bit hilly and today was a bit humid, but Philadelphia’s a great city. I love it here.”

Third place also went to an American: Jeffery Eggleston. The Boulder, Colo., resident clocked 1:05:19 for the 13.1 miles that wound throughout the most-scenic parts of Philadelphia.

The women’s half marathon was a much closer affair with Ethiopia’s Buze Diribe coming through the tape in 1:11:50. Her nearest rival was American Neely Spence Gracey, also of Boulder, who was 17 seconds behind (1:12:08). Third place went to Frances Koons (1:15:31).

Diribe was especially pleased with her performance on Sunday, improving her personal best by over a full minute. “I could not be happier,” she said shortly after her triumphant finish. “I think the course was fast and it was much fun.”

For Spence Gracey, the post-race reaction was more grounded.

“Today was all about coming out here to get ready to run [the] New York City [Marathon] in November and I was able to do that.” Spence Gracey admitted. “I got exactly what I needed here. I just need to stay healthy for the next 7 weeks and I should be in great shape.”

Spence Gracey said she also had a lot of run along the way. “You know, Rock and Roll always puts on a great show and today was no exception. I loved the bands and I loved the course. It’s always a pleasure and honor to run in these races.”

Elite runners aside, thousands of other participants took to the streets of Philadelphia on Sunday. Conditions for this race, the ultimate kick off to the fall marathon season, are nearly always ideal and today was no exception. Temperatures in the low 70s and partly cloudy skies kept runners cool and happy. Rock ‘n’ Roll races always come with plenty of entertaining bands and cheer zones. On Sunday, many of the musicians wore Philly Eagles jerseys and there was more than one Rocky sighting along the scenic course, which winds around the beautiful Schuylkill River along Kelly and West River Drives and ends at the foot of the Art Museum. Alternative music band Guster took to the stage at the finish-line festival and gave all the Philadelphia runners and spectators a good reason to dance at the end of their race.

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