By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
ATLANTA, GA (04-Jul) -- Christo Landry and Amy Hastings prevailed victorious here at the 45th annual Atlanta Journal Constitution Peachtree Road Race, breaking the tape in personal bests of 28:25 and 32:16, respectively. With their wins, both claimed USA national titles for 10-K at the largest fully-timed road race in America.
LANDRY EARNS THIRD NATIONAL CROWN OF 2014
At Wednesday's AJC Peachtree Road Race press conference, Christo Landry described how he thought today's race would play out.
"I think it's going to be quite a large pack of at least five or six people going into that last mile, making that last turn on, I think, 10th Street going into the final kick down that hill. Anything can happen then," he said, speaking exclusively to Race Results Weekly.
Landry's vision turned out to be pretty accurate, concluding with an exciting duel down 10th Street.
Through a pedestrian opening mile in 4:41, Oklahoma State alum Girma Mecheso decided to make the race a bit more honest, surging from the very large pack of roughly 25. Meters behind, a chase group of Landry, Tyler Pennel, Aaron Braun, Shadrack Biwott, and Jake Riley quickly assembled.
As Mecheso began the arduous climb up Cardiac Hill at three miles, the wheels began to fall off. Led by Pennel, the chase pack quickly swarmed Mecheso, spitting him out the back in mere seconds. He'd wind up finishing 13th.
"We kind of hit the hill and everyone slowed down, and I felt great! I was just going to keep running this pace," said Pennel, 26. By the time Pennel crested Cardiac Hill, it was down to three: himself, Landry, and Braun.
Of the trio, Pennel looked to be straining the least. The ZAP Fitness Elite team member powered up and down the remaining hills. Stoic in form, his arms tucked close to his chest and eyes focused on the road ahead, Pennel desperately wanted to win his first national title here on the Fourth of July, Independence Day in America.
"I kept thinking, 'Let's do it here, let's do it here.' It's a great field to run against," he said, sporting a red, white, and blue dyed rat tail haircut.
In the final mile, Pennel and Landry battled stride for stride, dropping Braun in the process. Taking the final turn on 10th Street together, the winner would be decided by a final kick -- just as Landry had predicted two days prior.
For the first time all race, Landry moved into the lead with roughly 400 meters remaining, using the downhill stretch to his advantage. Although he wasn't confident in his kick on Wednesday, the College of William & Mary alum turned into high gear without a problem.
By the finish Landry had gapped Pennel by five seconds, 28:25 to 28:30. The victory was Landry's third at a U.S. national road racing championships this year.
"To be able to win on July 4 in an American-only race and be the first American winner since the 1990's, that's something pretty special and I'm glad I was able to come down for it," said Landry. This year, the race suspended it's international elite field in order to showcase the USA Championships (it is not necessarily a permanent change, organizers said). The last American to win the AJC Peachtree Road Race had been Ed Eyestone in 1991.
"This is one of the top class road races in the Unites States and I'm sure in the world. It's just a privilege to win this race," Landry added. With the victory, Landry earned $15,000 and extended his lead in the USA Running Circuit standings.
"There's no reason to stop now!" he said, hinting at title number four at the USA 7 Mile Championships, hosted by the Quad-City Times Bix 7 in Davenport, Iowa, on July 26.
Behind Landry and Pennel, Biwott outkicked Braun for third (both timing 28:52), while Riley was fifth in 29:07. A surprising sixth went to Stephen Pifer, 29:10 his time.
Two-time Olympian Ryan Hall, who was off the lead pack after the opening mile, dropped out mid-race. His wife, Sara, told Race Results Weekly he had been dealing with hamstring issues recently, the same hamstring that forced him to drop out of the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London.
"I think that maybe was bugging him," she said, adding that his training had been good in the days prior to today's race. "It's the same Olympics hamstring that re-emerges every once in a while, just kind of one of those Achilles heels for him."
HASTINGS CONVINCINGLY WINS FIRST USA 10K TITLE
At the AJC Peachtree Road Race pre-race dinner on Thursday evening, Amy Hastings told a crowd of about 300 that she was eager and ready to traverse the hilly 6.2 mile course here, hoping to win her first USA 10-K national title. Racing her third 10-K or 10,000m contest in 21 days, the 30-year-old came in confident and with a plan in mind.
"Three 10-K's is nothing compared to the marathon," she joked yesterday. Indeed, Hastings would conquer the challenge, winning the women's contest in a personal best of 32:16.
Although she'd never run this race before, Hastings was well aware of the course's daunting profile: multiple hills with the hardest of all --Cardiac Hill-- climbing 123 feet (38m) between miles three and four. Letting Rachel Ward lead early, including the opening parts of Cardiac Hill, Hastings bided her time before making a decisive move at the hill's crest.
Taking off and not letting up, Hastings sped away from chasers Ward and Sara Hall. However, the 2012 Olympian was nervous someone would catch her before the downhill charge towards Piedmont Park.
"I knew I wanted to push it on the hills," she said. "I was able to pull away on the downhill, and after that it was just kind of running scared because I knew there were some pretty incredible women behind me and I didn't want to leave it to the very end."
Neither Hall nor any of the other elite women would catch her, as Hastings broke the tape first, twelve seconds up on Hall (32:28) and third-placer Ward (32:36).
"It feels incredible. It's always amazing to represent your country and go out there and run for the US," Hastings told reporters, an American flag draped across her shoulders. "But to do it and win on the Fourth of July, it feels even better. Happy Fourth to everyone!"
Hastings said the win was extra meaningful considering some of her relatives are from the area. She will now turn her focus to marathon training, planning to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 12.
Kellyn Johnson (32:49) and new B.A.A. High Performance team member Juliet Bottorff (32:55) rounded out the top five (it was Bottorff's professional road racing debut). Jen Rhines, who turned 40 on July 1, was seventh in 33:04 and the first masters finisher.
Olympian Desiree Linden wound up 18th 33:40.
PHOTO 1: Christo Landry pulls away from Tyler Pennel to win the 2014 AJC Peachtree Road Race --and USA 10-K title-- in a personal best 28:25; Pennel finished second (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO 2: Amy Hastings celebrates her first USA 10-K road running title at the 2014 AJC Peachtree Road Race (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO 3: Amy Hastings and Christo Landry celebrate their 2014 USA 10-K road running titles at the 2014 AJC Peachtree Road Race (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)