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World Class Runners to Run the RRCA 10 Mile National Championship on Sunday

WASHINGTON, DC – The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, the RRCA National 10 Mile Championship, is the city’s only event with an international reputation among the world’s finest road runners. This year’s event, scheduled to start at 7:30 A.M. on Sunday, April 11, 2010 on the Washington Monument Grounds, will once again feature a notable cast in quest of a total purse of $45,000, the largest in the event’s history. Two-time defending champion Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya will be headlining the women’s field as she seeks to join Julie Shea as the only woman with three consecutive wins. Shea accomplished the feat in 1975-1977. (Lisa Weidenbach Rainsberger won the event three times but not in consecutive years.). Chepkurui looks well poised to pull off the “three-peat” based on her sterling 30:43 10K performance at the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans last weekend. Chepkurui’s chief challengers will include the familiar faces of Belaynesh Zemedkun, the runner-up here last year in 53:55, and Genoveva Kigen, who finished two places behind Chepkurui last weekend in New Orleans.

On the men’s side, John Korir, now 34 years old, is returning for what could be his final realistic attempt to match Bill Rodgers as the event’s only four-time winner. Korir has some history going for him as Rodgers notched the last of four consecutive titles in 1982 at age 34. Known for a formidable kick that carried him to titles in a dozen major American road races, Korir won here in 2001, 2003 and 2005. However, he has failed in his two most recent attempts to match Rodgers’ mark, finishing a close third in 2007 and 7th in 2008. Gilbert Okari, 31, who won the event in 2006, joins Korir as a past champion looking to notch another title.

A couple of youngsters from Ethiopia are expected to show no mercy to their “elders.” Tilahun Regassa, 20, has picked up on the string of victories he posted last year (at the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K, Bolder Boulder 10K, and the Falmouth 7 Mile) with a win at this year’s Crescent City Classic 10K. Fellow Ethiopian Lelisa Desessa, also 20, posted a very fast, sub-60:00 half marathon time earlier this year (59:59) at the Zayed International Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates before finishing 6th in New Orleans.

For the first time, the event will offer a supplemental American-only purse ($1,000-$500-$250) to the top three American men and women who place among the top 15 finishers overall. On the men’s side a couple of locals, Bert Rodriguez and Jake Klim, could be in the mix for some of the American money but will be challenged to crack the top 15 overall to be eligible for the payout. On the women’s side two local Army Ten Miler champions, Veena Reddy and Samia Akbar, along with Susannah Kvasnicka are in a similar position.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, 2009 RRCA Masters Female Runner of the Year and the 1984 Olympic Marathon gold medalist, will be making her first appearance at the race. Samuelson, 52, now sits atop the U.S. 50-59 rankings the same way she once dominated the U.S. open ranks in the 1980s.  In 2007, she set a U.S. 50-59 age group marathon mark of 2:49:08 in finishing the Olympic Trials marathon some 23 years after winning the 1984 trials just 17 days after arthroscopic knee surgery.

Bill Rodgers will be joining Samuelson for his perennial return to the Nation’s Capital for the event. Now, 62, he had surgery for prostate cancer in 2008 but is back on the roads again.

This year’s event serves as the Road Runners Club of America’s National 10 Mile Championship for the fourth consecutive year. National Champions will be crowned in the Open, Masters (40-49) and Grand Masters (50-59) divisions.

Race Director Phil Stewart said, “We take great pride in our tradition of bringing the world’s finest athletes from every era to the streets of Washington, DC each year. Washington, DC is a world-class city and it merits a world class running event.”

Widely known as “The Runner’s Rite of Spring,” the event is hugely popular among the more-gentle running population as well. Over 27,000 people applied for the 15,000 slots through a lottery held last December. This year’s field comes from 49 states and over a dozen foreign countries.

One familiar face among the starters is Bethesda runner Ben Beach, who will be participating in his 38th consecutive Cherry Blossom race. An editor at The Wilderness Society, Beach is the only runner to have finished every year since the race started in 1973. He also will start his 43rd consecutive Boston Marathon on Monday, April 19th.  This year’s ten-mile entrants span 75 years between five 11-year-olds entered and 86-year-old Lou Lodovico of Ellwood City, PA.

The sponsoring Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc. takes great pride in the over $4 million dollars which has been raised for the Children’s Miracle Network since the Credit Unions became the title sponsor in 2002. A significant part of this total has gone to support Washington, DC’s own Children’s Hospital. More than 600 Credit Union members serve as volunteers and over 7,000 entrants are Credit Union members. The Credit Unions recently announced an extension of their title sponsorship of the race through 2016.

Parents still can sign up their children ages 12-and-under for a free 1K Kids Run at 8:15 A.M. on the Washington Monument Grounds. Kids Run registration opens at 7:15 A.M. on Sunday.

Streaming video of the race can be seen by a link on the race website,, starting around 7:00 A.M. on race morning.

Supporting sponsors include Gatorade Endurance Formula, Navy Federal Credit Union, and Potomac River Running. The event is part of the Professional Road Running Association (PRRO) Circuit and the 2010 National Cherry Blossom Festival held from March 27 to April 11. This year’s festival celebrates the 98th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the citizens of the United States and Japan.


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