Spokane, WA—Despite a blistering pace set by Gilbert Okari in the first two miles, fellow Kenyan John Korir kept Okari in sight, reeled him in by mid-race, and surged in the final miles for a 13-second victory in the 29th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run. Korir’s 34:26 win in the 12-kilometer race was good for $7,000 in prize money, and also put him in contention for a $15,000 bonus on July 4th if he wins the Peachtree Road Race, the third link—along with the Credit Union Cherry Blossom in Washington, DC—of the PRRO Circuit Triple Crown.
Okari seemed to take advantage of the near-perfect racing conditions—46 degrees, no wind, clear skies—by jumping out to an early lead, passing the first mile in 4:23 and following that with a stunning 4:11. That pace gave him a 75-meter lead over Korir and the rest of the pack. Korir, though, coming off wins at the World’s Best 10k and Cherry Blossom, was not to be denied, as he steadily chewed into Okari’s lead, and by 4 miles he had pulled even. A mile later Korir, who was familiar with the Bloomsday course after winning here in 2003, used the famed Doomsday Hill to separate himself from the competition, and from the top of the hill to the finish he was never seriously challenged. Okari held on for second, with Julius Kibet and the 19-year old Ernest Meli Kimeli in 3rd and 4th, respectively. Defending champion Simon Wangai finished 8th, and American Brian Sell was ninth.
In the women’s race, Kathy Butler of Great Britain led a pack of nine to the base of Doomsday Hill, but as the pack ascended, Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui threw in a dramatic surge, and by the top she emerged with a 40-meter lead. Leghzaoui held her position to the end, beating Butler by 16 seconds, while Dorota Gruca of Poland finished 3rd in 39:54 and Australia's Kerryn McCann ran 39:58 for 4th. With four women under the 40 minute mark, this year’s finish was the second best in Bloomsday history.
In Men's Masters competition, Canadian Steve Boyd edged Rick Fuller of Eugene, Oregon, by a second, while Russian Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova, last year’s Masters runerup, won the Women's Masters title.
In the Wheelchair Division, course record holder Saul Mendoza powered up Doomsday Hill and went on to post his eighth Bloomsday win in a time of 26:31, while 19-year-old Shirley Reilly of Tucson, Arizona, upset defending champion Ariadne Hernandez to take top honors the women’s open division with a time of 34:52.
Open winners of this year's Lilac Bloomsday Run will advance to the PRRO Race of Champions at the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on July 4. The top male and female from the state of Washington, and the top male and female from Spokane County, will also be invited to Peachtree.
There were over 40,012 finishers in this year’s Bloomsday Run, and nearly 30 bands, vocalists and performing troupes along the course to keep the throng of runners, joggers and walkers entertained. Next year’s Bloomsday, the 30th, will be on Sunday, May 7, 2006.
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