Members of the AmeriKenyan Running Club dominated the top spots at Sunday's Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay. Jacob Chemtai, 26, nearly broke the course record with a blistering time of 1:02:44. His teammate, Nelson Oyugi, 21, finished just six seconds behind at 1:02:50. The top two female runners, Sarah Kiptoo, 24, and Everlyne Lagat, 32, Kenyans from the same running club, finished at 1:11:21 and 1:13:49. Both male and female times were the second-fastest ever in this race, now in its 11th year.
With more than 35 top elite runners competing, 2013 brought the deepest field of half marathoners ever assembled for this race and the fastest overall course competition. A total of nine male runners finished under 1:05 this year after a total of only 13 runners breaking 1:05 in the past six years combined. A prize purse of $17,850, the largest half marathon purse in the western U.S., was distributed between the top eight male and female and top three masters"� runners.
Overall, 7,200 runners crossed the finish line under perfect race conditions. A thin cloud cover, windless skies and temperatures in the low-50"�s at the start helped hundreds run personal records along the rolling course that mostly tours the scenic and historic coastlines of Monterey and Pacific Grove.
In the elite competition, the first mile of the race saw a pack of 14 runners take the lead, including Kiptoo, a very fast woman among the elite men. They reached the one mile mark in 4:53 with last year"�s champion Ben Bruce in front. At mile two, a five-man pack emerged including Uyogi and Chemtai, fellow Kenyans Geofrey Terer and Benson Cheruiyot, and Californian Fernando Cabada.
Miles three and four saw a two-man breakaway as AmeriKenyan Running Club teammates Chemtai and Uyogi opened up a 16 second lead over Cabada, Terer, Cheruiyot, and Aissa Dghoughi (Morocco) who had moved up to the second pack. Running miles 6 - 10 in the high 4:40s gave Chemtai and Uyogi an insurmountable 30-second lead and set them up for a shot at the course record. The two teammates dueled all the way to the finish with Chemtai sprinting the gentle downhill finish to stop the clock six seconds ahead of Oyugi in 1:02:44, the second fastest time ever at Big Sur. Dghoughi finished 3rd in 1:03:20; followed by Cabada (1:03:25), Cheruiyot (1:03:37), Ian Burrell from Arizona (1:03:57), Bruce (1:03:58), and Stephen Furst from North Carolina (1:04:27).
The women"�s race was determined early as Kiptoo went out with the lead pack of men and built a substantial lead by two miles (10:10) and cruised to the win in 1:11:21, the second-best time ever run by a female on this course. The battle for second place was among four runners: Lagat, Jess Petersson (Denmark), Lindsay Flanagan (Washington), and Sarah Crouch (California) as Lagat and Petersson sprinted to the finish side by side with Lagat edging out Petersson by 6/10 of a second, both runners clocked in 1:13:49. Flanagan, in only her second half marathon, finished fourth in a PR 1:13:56. Crouch held on for fifth in 1:16:10. The top eight was rounded out by Ariana Hilborn from Arizona (1:16:36), Julia Mallon from California, who was sixth American in the New York City Marathon just two weeks ago (1:17:49), and Jenny Kadavy from California (1:18:36). Just like the men"�s race, this was the deepest field ever on the women"�s side. In fact the fourth place time today would have won three of the previous six races.
The men"�s master"�s race saw two familiar faces and one impressive newcomer, all from California, battle for the win. Hector Hernandez (Chula Vista) outran Tony Torres (Cedar Glen) to the finish in a winning time of 1:11:54. Torres, who also finished second last year was six seconds back in 1:12:00. Last year"�s master"�s champion Chris Knorzer (Rocklin) came home third this year in 1:13:03.
The women"�s master"�s race saw two Big Sur master"�s legends finish first and second. Mary Coordt of Elk Grove, CA, won this year after finishing second in each of the past three years. Her winning time of 1:24:19 was just over a minute faster than Christine Kennedy who finished second in 1:25:36. Kennedy, who is 58 and a four-time master"�s champion at the Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, now holds the race age group course record in three different age groups (45 - 49, 50 - 54, and 55 - 59).
Like its "�big sister"� race, the Big Sur International Marathon held each April, the Half Marathon on Monterey Bay sells-out each year and has grown into a popular destination race. Runners from all 50 states and 16 countries travelled to the Monterey Peninsula to compete.
Full race results can be found here