Spokane, WA—The world’s best runners and wheelchair racers will be converging on Spokane, Washington, this Sunday for the 34th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run. Two-time Bloomsday champion Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya and Moroccan star Ridouane Harroufi headline the field, while running legend Joan Samuelson will join the competition and no doubt show 50,000 runners, joggers and how fast a 52-year-old can travel 12 kilometers.
Chepkurui is the woman to beat as she chases her third consecutive Bloomsday title. Only two women in Bloomsday’s history have accomplished this feat: Jane Omoro of Kenya (’98, ’99, and ‘00) and Anne Audain of New Zealand (’81, ’82, and ’83).
Chepkurui cruised to a 40-second victory over 2nd place Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia in Bloomsday 2009. Her victories at the 2010 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile and 2010 Crescent City Classic might suggest that a Bloomsday victory for Chepkurui is a foregone conclusion. Chepkurui, though, will have her hands full with 2010 World Cross Country Champion Emily Chebet-Muge of Kenya and Ethiopian star Mamitu Daska.
Chebet-Muge beat Chepkurui at World Cross by 21 seconds, and Bloomsday will be Chebet-Muge’s first race since claiming the cross country title. Mamitu Daska, winner of the 2009 Bolder Boulder 10k, should give both Chepkurui and Chebet-Muge a battle. Daska is traveling from Ethiopia to run Bloomsday, and her 2:24 performance at the 2010 Dubai Marathon shows she’s ready to challenge for the title.
“The women’s competition appears to be the marquis race of this year’s Bloomsday,” said Jon Neill, Bloomsday Elite Athlete Coordinator. “Three of the sport’s biggest stars will square off in what should be a thrilling finish.”
For the men, Ridouane Harroufi of Morocco appears to be the man to beat. Harroufi enters Bloomsday with the fastest 10k time this year among the Bloomsday field (27:51, Cooper River Bridge Run). Harroufi elected to pass on the London Marathon last weekend and will instead focus on making a run for the Bloomsday title. Peter Kurui of Kenya, who has already run 27:55 for 10k and 1:00:17 for the half marathon in 2010, promises to give Harroufi a serious challenge for the title.
Defending Bloomsday champion John Yuda of Tanzania will not compete this year, but past Bloomsday champions John Korir (’03, ’05, & ’07) and Gilbert Okari (’06) will be on hand to contend for the Bloomsday crown and the $7,000 first place prize. In spite of the top Kenyans competing this year, Neill thinks Kenya’s dominance will once again be challenged at Bloomsday.
“Last year, John Yuda of Tanzania ended Kenya’s 15-year win streak of consecutive Bloomsday men’s titles,” said Neill. “It looks like Moroccan Ridounne Harroufi may keep the Kenyans off the victory stand again in 2010.”
Along with the tough international field, Americans Dan Browne of Chula Vista, California and Sally Meyerhoff of Scottsdale,Arizona will return to defend their U.S. titles. Both won the $5,000 first place prize for being the top Americans in last year’s Bloomsday. Bloomsday will once again feature a $10,000 purse ($5,000 - $2,500 - $1,250 - $750 - $500) for the top male and female Americans who finish in the top 25.
In the elite wheelchair division at Bloomsday, Amanda McGrory will be the clear favorite in the woman’s race. A victory on Sunday would earn her a fourth consecutive Bloomsday title. Last year McGrory won by a minute-and-a-half over her nearest competitor.
On the men’s side, a new wheelchair champion will be crowned. Last year’s Bloomsday champion, Krige Schabort, won’t be returning, giving Aaron Gordian of Mexico City, last year’s runnerup and the Bloomsday champion in 2008, a clear shot at the title.
A field of close to 55,000 runners, joggers and walkers are expected to have entered by the time registration closes on Saturday evening. That’s an increase of more than 3,000 over last year’s field, and the third year in a row that Bloomsday numbers have grown by over 3,000.
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