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17th Annual Pike’s Peek 10K Has Fast Times Running through Rockville

By Steve Nearman
Rockville, MD
April 29, 2012
For the Washington Running Report

The Kenyans came from Chapel Hill, NC and from Royersford, PA. The Ethiopians came from the Bronx and Washington, DC. They all came in pursuit of a $1,000 first prize, not bad for running a 10-kilometer race not far from their home bases.

Credit the Kenyans from Ben Kurgat’s Chapel Hill camp with sweeping the overall win, but the Ethiopians sure showed depth at the 17th Kaiser Permanente Pike’s Peek 10K today in Rockville.

But the biggest winner of the morning goes to the weather. Some 1,307 men and 1,445 women who finished the downhill trek from the Shady Grove Metro to White Flint Mall down the usually car-congested Rockville Pike were treated with perfect weather – bright sun, 50s warming into the 60s, and a slight tailwind.

“It was nice weather, not as hot as last year,” said Kristin Rapp, who enjoyed a personal best 53:39 after running here in 2009 and 2011.

The elites made the best of the weather as well. Although the tailwind was not quite as strong as it was last year – producing seven of the nine fastest men’s times and six of the nine fastest women’s time in race history – the elite man still rewrote a bit of the record books today.

Julius Kogo successfully defended his 2011 title, falling just six seconds short of last year’s time in 28:12. His 28:06 is the event record, so now he owns the No. 1 and 2 fastest times. But he might have broken his record today had there not been slick pavement from overnight rain. Finishing shortly after Kogo was training mate Hellen Jemutai, who moved up from sixth last year to capture the victory in 32:54, the exact same time as last year and etching her name twice in the top 10 times ever.

Both earned $1,000 and a plaque for winning the Road Runners Club of America Eastern Regional 10K Championships.

The manner in which Kogo and Jemutai achieved their victories could not have been more different.

After the start was delayed about 10 minutes due to a fender-bender on Rockville Pike, Kogo, bearing bib #1, vaulted from the start with fellow Kenyans and the Ethiopians in pursuit.  In fact, 12 East Africans were in the lead pack by one mile, swiftly passed in 4:35.

The pack, with its frequent lead exchanges, began to disintegrate to six members as they tackled a short uphill approaching the third mile marker and just four as they crossed the halfway point in 14:10. By the end of the fourth mile, Kogo and Ethiopians Abiyot Endale and Zenbaba Yigeze finally dropped another Ethiopian Fikadu Lemma, who would eventually finish sixth.

Then Kogo began to execute his plan.

“I felt good and I just started picking it up from four miles,” said Kogo, 26, who also was runner-up in 2010. “Then just approaching six miles, I picked it up again.”

Kogo gapped Endale and Yigeze by 10 meters through five miles and slowly was pulling away until Endale made a last-ditch effort to catch Kogo before the last steep downhill to the finish. Kogo was too fast.

“I know Kogo,” said Endale, who was training at altitude in Ethiopia for three months until arriving back in the Bronx last week. “He’s a very good runner. I’ve never been this close to him before. Around 4 ½ miles, I was pushing the pace. I made a mistake by pushing too early.”

Endale bettered his third-place finish last year but one spot in 28:16 for $750 and training mate Yigeze was third in 28:20 for $650. Endale’s time was the fourth-fastest ever here and Yigeze earned the #6 clocking all time.

Jemutai left no doubt very early whose name was going in the $1,000 check. She bolted from the started and took a large lead by the end of first mile, hitting 5K in 16:16 and winning by 56 seconds. With no women to push her, she was ably paced by training mate Nicholas Kurgat, who was second last year but coming back from an Achilles injury.

Third-placer Tezeta Dengersa, a Washington-based Ethiopian, said it best about Jemutai’s fast start. “She said ‘OK, goodbye, thank you’!” mused Dengersa, a 31-year-old Turkish citizen born in Ethiopia.

Jemutai enjoyed the win but fell short of her goal. “I wanted to run 32 minutes today,” said the 30 year old from Kapsabet, Kenya. “I realized at mile four that I was starting to slow down. I felt like I needed more water.”

Yihunish Delelecha, a 30-year-old Washington-based Ethiopian, was second in 33:50 and Dengersa was eight ticks behind her. Elena Orlova, a 42-year-old Russian training in nearby Gaithersburg, was top master and sixth overall in an impressive 34:26.

Top male master was 41-year-old Chris Juarez of Alexandria, the 2002 Marine Corps Marathon champ, 14th overall in 30:46. Jack McMahon of Silver Spring was the second oldest finisher, at 81, running 56:58 and beating 422 younger men to the finish.

After the race in the White Flint Mall parking lot, runners did their share of sun-bathing, chatting with friends and family, and eating healthy foods such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Chinese fried rice, pizza, and Popeyes fried chicken.

Sean Dixon, 45, from Waldorf, MD, took some time to relax after the race.

“I’m glad I’m here,” said Dixon, newly retired from the Marines and Coast Guard but now working in Human Resources at the Office of Homeland Security while going to the University of Maryland Baltimore County for his degree in information systems management.

No wonder he does not have the time to train as he used to.

“This was my third Pike’s Peek 10K, but I’m nowhere near race shape,” said Dixon, whose wife Kristy stayed home with their three children Israel (15), Simone (13), and Ashley (12) so he could enjoy the morning. “I ran a pretty even race (51:26) but I’ve run faster here, 44 minutes in 2007, 46 minutes in 2010. My allergies, the pollen, have made me fatigued, under the weather. Threw my training out the window.” He said he does hope to participate in a sprint or Olympic triathlon this year.

Mark Malander also said he was not near race shape. He ran a stellar 33:05 here six years ago but has been hampered for the past year by an Achilles injury. However, the fiercely competitive Malander was happy to be able to run.

“Last year, I was injured and I was the driver for the elite athletes,” said the 54-year-old Malander of Herndon, a geologist for 30 years for Exxon Mobil. “This is the slowest I’ve run on this course (36:24). It’s frustrating to get clobbered by all those 50-year-old guys.” He said his training now turns to the New York City Marathon this fall.

Kristin Rapp, on the other hand, said she was in better shape than last year. Training for the Boston Marathon two weeks ago certainly helped, she said. And Pike’s Peek was the longest run she has had since the rather-toasty Patriots’ Day marathon in Beantown.

“I wasn’t trying to run a fast time,” said the 34-year Rapp, who lives in nearby Kensington and works close to the finish as an accountant at CAS. “I just wanted to get back out there after Boston.”

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