May 6, 2012—Mamitu Daska made it clear early on that it wasn’t going to be a dawdle and kick race, as the Ethiopian broke from the field before the three-mile mark and never looked back, winning the 36th annual Lilac Bloomsday Run in the third fastest women’s time ever run on the course. Allan Kiprono, meanwhile, was nearly as dominant in the men’s race, though he waited until the infamous Doomsday Hill before doing a similar number on a talented pack of mostly fellow Kenyans, emerging at the top with a 10 meter lead and never being challenged from there to the finish.
A field of over 53,000 signed up for this year’s Bloomsday, and the crowd was greeted with clear skies, a temperature at the start in the low 40s, and virtually no wind. The elite women started the 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) race first, and it wasn’t long before Daska began making it clear that on this day she would take no prisoners. After the first half-mile she moved to the front, with Genoveva Kigen gamely staying with her. By the first mile those two broke away, and Kigen made a strong move on the downhill that followed.
As the duo reached the bottom and began the climb up Hangman Hill to the 2-mile mark, they had a 20-meter lead on the rest of the field, with Janet Cherobon-Bawcom of Rome, Georgia, moving into the third spot. Daska use the next hill, Cemetery, to make a clean break of it, and by three miles she was 50 meters in the lead. She passed three miles in 15:04, the fastest time ever run on the course by a solid seven seconds. Her time at four miles (20:16) was still five seconds ahead of record pace, and it was the last time she had a challenger close. Daska eased up somewhat after that, but her final time of 38:26 was 57 seconds ahead of Cherobon-Bawcom, who passed Kigen after the top of Doomsday and built on that lead to the finish. Four other Americans finished in the top 10.
“At one point I was closing on her,” said Cherobon-Bawcom, “But I think I misjudged how long the hill was. It worked out well anyway. She had a great race and I had a great race too.”
In the men’s competition, Kiprono seemed willing to cruise back in a pack led mostly by Robert Letting through the early miles, and the group still included nine at the base of Doomsday. But then Kiprono decided to take control, and he surged up the hill showing little strain.
By the top Kiprono had a 10 meter lead on Letting, and as the course flattened out again he turned on the jets, glancing back occasionally as his lead grew to 150 meters by the six-mile mark. He held that lead to the finish, clocking 34:29 and beating Letting by 18 seconds, with MacDonard Ondara a step behind Letting. Three-time Bloomsday champion John Korir took fourth, as Kenyans claimed eight of the top ten spots. Top American Carlos Trujillo of Middleton, Idaho, finished in tenth. The victory by Kiprono was his first at Bloomsday, and made up for a close runnerup finish to Simon Ndirangu a year ago.
“My focus was only to win,” said Kiprono. “Last year I missed it. I said this year I have to win this race.”
Victors Kiprono and Daska each earned $7,000 for their wins, part of a purse of nearly $100,000 in all divisions of the race. Along with the prize money, both earned the right to compete for the PRRO Circuit Bonus of $10,000 at the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom and Carlos Trujillo each took home Bloomsday’s top U.S. citizen prize of $5,000, plus open prize money. Kevin Castille of Nicholasville, Kentucky, and Dorota Gruca of Poland each earned the top masters prize of $1,500.
In the men’s wheelchair race, 52-year-old Californian Scott Parson took a commanding lead on the first downhill after mile one, and was only briefly challenged by Aaron Pike of the University of Illinois. Scott ended up winning by over a minute in a time of 29:58.
“It looked like everyone was hitting their brakes on that first hill,” said Parson, “and I just let it go.”
University of Illinois phenom Amanda McGrory grabbed a commanding lead from the start of the women’s race, and notched her sixth consecutive Bloomsday women’s title with a time of 34:15, over two minutes ahead of runnerup Susannah Scaroni. The Masters winner was Bradley Ray, while Santiago Sanz earned his eighth T2 Quad title, and Scott Stokes was the T1 Quad victor.
Along with top competition in all Bloomsday divisions, 47,882 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. Next year’s Lilac Bloomsday Run, the 37th, will be on Sunday, May 5th, 2013.
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