Spokane, WA—The anticipated matchup of past Bloomsday champions John Korir and Gilbert Okari never materialized, as 21-year-old Micah Kogo spurted ahead of Korir, Okari and the rest of the field shortly after the third mile, then blistered the second half of the race to set a new course record of 33:51 for the 12-kilometer course. It took a little longer for a front runner to emerge in the women’s race, but by the top of Doomsday Hill Lineth Chepkurui had gapped the field, and from there to the finish she was never challenged as she captured the Bloomsday women’s title on her first attempt.
47,505 entrants—an increase of over 3,000 over last year’s field—were treated to a calm, sunny morning for the 32ndrunning of the Lilac Bloomsday Run. The temperature at the start was close to 50 degrees as the racers barrelled downRiverside Avenue in downtown Spokane, with a pack of at least 15 top runners in close contention. That pack passed the first mile in 4:27, and on the downhill that followed, Dieudonne Disi of Rwanda eked out a slight lead. That lead evaporated on the hill that followed, and the pack stayed together through a 4:27 second mile and a third, mostly uphill, mile of 4:45. Most would have considered that a reasonable opening, but Kogo thought differently.
“I started to see that the pace is slow,” said Kogo, “so I tried to push the pace.”
That he did, as the young Kenyan broke from the remaining pack on a short uphill grade just past three miles, scorched the fourth mile in 4:24, and continued to build his lead from there to the finish. His 33:51 edged Josphat Machuka’s 1995 mark of 33:52, a time adjusted to reflect a mismeasurement discovered after that year’s race. Kogo finished 23 seconds ahead of Ridouane Harroufi of Morocco, who outdueled three-time Bloomsday champion John Korir over the final 300 meters to take the runnerup spot.
In the women’s race, Liza Hunter-Galvan of New Zealand took a tumble on the first downhill, but managed to get back up and reclaim a spot in the lead pack. A sizeable group then stayed together until the base of Doomsday Hill, when Lineth Chepkurui decided to make a move.
“I was feeling strong,” said Chepkurui later, “and this was the only place I could take advantage and break away.”
At the top of Doomsday Chepkurui had the lead, and from there to the finish she only seemed to get stronger, finishing in 39:47, 25 seconds ahead of runnerup Catherine Ndereba. Neriah Asiba picked up the third spot in 40:23, with Dorota Gruca of Poland in fourth.
In Masters competition, Joao Nytemba of Angola, who will be competing in his sixth Olympic Games this summer, won the men’s title, while Canadian Marilyn Arsenault captured first place for the women.
In wheelchair competition, perennial Bloomsday champion Saul Mendoza was upset for the first time in ten years, as Aaron Gordian of Mexico grabbed the lead after the first mile and withstood Mendoza’s attempt to overtake him on Doomsday Hill. Gordian kept the lead and even seemed to build on it over the final miles, finishing over a minute ahead of Mendoza.
In the women’s wheelchair race, Amanda McGrory of the University of Illinois repeated her 2007 victory over Shirley Reilly of the University of Arizona, but Reilly’s teammates in other divisions posted strong performances to reverse last year’s results and give Arizona the team title in Bloomsday’s second “Collegiate Challenge” competition.
In the Master’s race Cornelio Nunez-Ordaz of Mexico bested last year’s champion Scott Parson, while Quad Division winner Santiago Sanz-Quinto of Spain set his fourth consecutive course record with a time of 31:03.
Along with spirited elite competition in all divisions, over 43,000 finishers enjoyed performances from nearly 30 bands, vocalists and performing troupes along the course, eventually reaching the finish and claiming this year’s finisher T-shirt, which was bright red. Next year’s Lilac Bloomsday Run, the 33rd, will be on Sunday, May 3rd, 2009.
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