Spokane, WA—Returning women’s champion Lineth Chepkurui and 2006 men’s runnerup Charles Munyeki look to be the class of the field, but they’re not likely to have an easy time of it, as both men’s and women’s fields are deep and talented in the 33rd edition of the Lilac Bloomsday Run, scheduled for Sunday, May 3rd.
“Lineth’s victory last year was riveting and impressive,” said Bloomsday Elite Athlete Coordinator Jon Neill, “And Munyeki has run some great races since his second place Bloomsday finish three years ago. Those two are going to be tough to beat.”
Chepkurui’s current fitness is nothing short of spectacular. Her 4th place finish at the 2009 World Cross Country championships in Amman, Jordan was followed by two solid victories at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile inWashington, DC, and the Crescent City Classic 10k in New Orleans. She’ll be challenged by Kenyans Genoveva Kigen and Rose Kosgei. Kigen won the 2009 Azalea Trail Run 10K and narrowly lost to Chepkurui in the 2009 Crescent City Classic, while Rose Kosgei arrives at Bloomsday with two recent 1:09 half marathon performances under her belt.
Russians Lilya Shobukhova and Mariya Konovalova will also contend for the Bloomsday women’s crown. Shobukhova placed sixth in the Olympic 5000 meters final this past summer and recently ran the 2009 London Marathon in 2:24 to earn third place honors. Konovalova, who spent the winter focused on indoor track, ran 30:35 in the 10,000 meter final in Beijing. 2008 Olympians Lidia Simon of Romania and Dorota Gruca of Poland also figure to be in the lead pack.
Along with those top female runners, a group of Ethiopians stars led by Teyba Erkesso will be strongly represented at Bloomsday. Erkesso, who placed 2nd in Bloomsday 2007 in a sizzling time of 39:22, knows the course well, and her1:09:37 half marathon performance at the 2009 RAK Half Marathon suggests that she has strength to make a run at the title. Fellow Ethiopians Balainesh Gebre, Meskarem Legesse, and Hirut Mandefro should also factor among the leaders.
In the men’s race, the withdrawal of Moroccan Ridouane Harroufi yesterday now opens the way for one of several top Kenyan runners to add to that country’s streak of 15 straight men’s titles at Bloomsday. Harroufi had been billed as the pre-race favorite and the man most likely to end the Kenyan dominance, but his withdrawal due to a hamstring injury changes the competitive landscape. Charles Munyeki, who ran 59:44 in the 2008 Fortis Rotterdam Half Marathon, could deliver a performance that rivals Micah Kogo’s 3:51 record time from last year. Veteran racer Gilbert Okari of Kenya will look to improve upon his 12th finish last year and return to the shape which garnered him several race victories in 2007, including Bloomsday. And Robert Letting (Kenya), John Yuda (Tanzania), Silas Sang (Kenya) and Karim ElMabchour (Morocco) will fill out the lead pack.
$7,000 will be awarded to the top male and female overall winners, part of the total elite athlete prize purse of $97,200, including wheelchair prize money. Of this amount, $20,000 will be awarded to the top U.S. citizens, male and female, who place in the top 25, with the top US male and female each earning $5,000. Headlining the Americans who will compete in this new Bloomsday prize division will be 2004 Olympian Dan Browne and newly minted American 10-Mile record holder Sally Meyerhoff. Other Americans who should factor in the race include Forest Braden, Mike Sayenko, Justin Young, Nic Arciniaga, and Jason Lehmkuhle. The elite American women include Carrie Vickers, Lauren Johnson, and Stephanie Rothstein.
Fields are also deep for this year’s wheelchair competition, with 56 racers scheduled to race the 12-kilometer course. Ten-time Bloomsday champion Saul Mendoza will try to regain the title he lost last year to Aaron Gordian, while South African Krige Schabort, who lost the 2007 Bloomsday title to Mendoza by six inches, will be looking to notch his first Bloomsday title. And in the women’s competition, last year’s champion, Amanda McGrory, who also won in 2007, will be challenged by 2005 and 2006 Bloomsday champion Shirley Reilly, and four-time champion Ariadne Hernandez.
A field of over 50,000 runners, joggers and walkers are expected to toe the line this Sunday for Bloomsday, an increase of over 3,000 over last year’s field. It’s the second year in a row that Bloomsday numbers have grown by over 3,000.
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