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World Class Runners Vie for DC’s Largest Running Event Purse

200,000th All-time Finisher to be Recognized; Event Looking to Achieve Certification as Environmentally Friendly

WASHINGTON, DC – The Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run 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 3, 2011 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. Three-time winners Lineth Chepkurui and John Korir will be attempting to join Bill Rodgers as four-time winners of the event. Chepkurui, 24, has posted her three wins in consecutive years (Rodgers’ four titles were in consecutive years between 1977 and 1981) and she has gotten faster with each win, clocking 54:21 in 2008, 53:32 in 2009, and 51:51 last year. Korir’s three wins have come in odd-numbered years (46:12 in 2001, 46:56 in 2003 and 46:55 in 2005) which bodes well for 2011. While the 35-year-old Kenyan is not the dominant force he was in the early 2000s, he still ran 46:05 last year, his fastest-ever time on the course and good for fourth place.

Chepkurui’s toughest challenges are expected to come from fellow Kenyan Julliah Tinega, who finished second last year in 52:39; Ethiopian Alemtsehay Misganaw who finished sixth in 54:42; and Kenyan Risper Gesabwa who finished fifth at the highly competitive World’s Best 10K in Puerto Rico in February in 32:35.

On the men’s side, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa is back after finishing second by a hair to Kenyan Stephen Tum last year, a result that sent the judges scurrying to the finish line camera to determine the winner. Desisa clocked 45:44, the third-fastest time ever run on the course and only six seconds behind Ismael Kirui’s course record of 45:38 set in 1995. Also returning is two-time champion Moroccan Ridoune Harroufi, who seemed to toy with the field before unleashing powerful kicks to claim titles in 2009 in 45:56 and in 2008 in 46:14.

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. Lucas Meyer is the favorite on the men’s side, and Kelly Jaske, who finished fifth overall last year, is favored among the women.

Bill Rodgers will be making his perennial return to the Nation’s Capital for the event. Now, 63, he had surgery for prostate cancer in 2008 but is back on the roads again.

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

As was the case last year, soldiers and civilians overseas will be part of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile. This year the organizing committee is supporting a “satellite” race at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. The event is expected to attract close to 1,000 starters. Camp Arifjan serves as a major staging area for U.S. troops deploying throughout the Middle East.

Widely known as “The Runner’s Rite of Spring,” the Credit Union Cherry Blossom is hugely popular among the more-gentle running population as well. Over 28,000 people applied for the 15,000 10 mile slots and 1,000 slots in the 5K Run-Walk Presented by Kaiser Permanente through a lottery held last December. This year’s field comes from all 49 states (lacking only North Dakota) and over a dozen foreign countries.

Sometime about the 1:15:00 mark in this year’s race, our all-time 200,000th finisher will cross the line. The list of all-time finishers now stands at 198,396 since the first event attracted 141 finishers in 1973. The runner finishing in 1604th place this year will be our 200,000th finisher and will receive five free entries, transportation to the 2012 race (our 40th running) and hotel accommodations.

One familiar face among the starters is Bethesda runner Ben Beach, who will be participating in his 39th 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. Click here for a list of all of Beach’s performances since 1973. He also will start his 44th consecutive Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18th.  This year’s ten-mile entrants span 79 years between 8-year-old Jake Ravitch of Bethesda, MD and 87-year-old Lou Lodovico of Ellwood City, PA.

The sponsoring Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc., celebrating its 10th year as the title sponsor, takes great pride in the $5 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 700 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.

The event has applied for certification from the Council for Responsible Sport, a non-profit organization that certifies sports events as environmentally friendly based on measures undertaken by the organizers to minimize the environmental impact of the event through the application of rigorous certification standards. To become certified, an event must earn at least 22 of 44 available credits. The Credit Union Cherry Blossom has applied for evaluation on 29 credits, which would earn the event “silver” certification, if approved.

One key area the organizers are emphasizing is for participants to use Metro or bicycles get to the race. Last year 13,900 runners, spectators and volunteers used Metro, a 4% increase over 2009. The 2011 goal is to have an additional 4% opt for public transportation. Metro will open at 5:00 A.M. on race day.

During the registration process, 1,177 runners purchased carbon offsets from Native Energy for $3.60 each. This offsets 303 short tons of carbon emissions. The funds raised will be contributed to the Northeast Farms Separation Project, which removes volatile solids from dairy farm manure slurry, thus preventing anaerobic decomposition that would normally produce methane. Two of the farms this project supports are nearby: the Twin Oaks Farm in Emmittsburg, MD, and the Mercer Vu Farm in Mercersburg, PA.

The event is also providing two local non-profit organizations complimentary booth space at the Health and Fitness Expo to promote their efforts to enhance and preserve the W&OD Trail and the Potomac River Watershed, respectively.

Friends of Washington and Old Dominion Trail support and enhance the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD) as a recreational, environmental and historic resource through volunteer efforts in fund raising, promotion, educational programming and maintenance.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation provides experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed.

Entries for the 10-Mile and the 5K Run-Walk Presented by Kaiser Permanente are closed. Spectators are encouraged to view the event in the vicinity of the Washington Monument Grounds. The staging area is ¼ mile from the Smithsonian Metro stop (Orange and Blue lines).

The event will be broadcast on two large “jumbo-trons” at the race site and will also be streamed live on the internet at www.cherryblossom.org.

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

Supporting sponsors include Kaiser Permanente of the Middle Atlantic Region; the presenting sponsor of the 5K Run-Walk; Gatorade Endurance Formula; Navy Federal Credit Union; New Balance; and Potomac River Running. The event is a member of the Professional Road Running Association (PRRO) Circuit and is a participating event in the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival held from March 26 to April 10. This year’s festival celebrates the 99th anniversary of the gift of the cherry trees and the enduring friendship between the citizens of the United States and Japan.

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