By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved - with permission
BOSTON (14-Apr) -- On a slightly chilly spring morning here, the tenth annual B.A.A. 5-K came down to sizzling sprint finishes on Charles Street between the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. Off of conservative early splits through the streets of Back Bay, Ethiopia's Hagos Gebrhiwet and Buze Diriba came away with the wins --and the $7500 winners' checks-- in 13:42 and 15:22, respectively. Those marks were well off of the event records of 13:20 and 14:50, and Gebrhiwet's mark was the slowest winning time here in seven years.
Nonetheless, the exciting finishes made up for any lack of speed, especially in the men's race where all eyes were on defending champion Ben True, the American record holder, who in six previous appearances here had never finished lower than second. True, 32, from West Lebanon N.H., was one of a dozen men still in contention at the 4-kilometer mark on Boylston Street as the race headed east towards the finish. That lead pack included former University of Virginia star Tommy Curtin who had been the early leader.
"I'd say I led for the first mile and a half, then some people helped to take over," Curtin told Race Results Weekly. "They were definitely waiting on Ben for sure, the American record holder and the former champion. Everyone was waiting on Ben and I was just thinking, 'I have to stay with them for the last 800.'"
True knew of Gebrhiwet's speed, and was cautious. True was coming of a strong period of base training which culminated in a win at the United Airlines NYC Half on March 18, and he wasn't sure if his formidable leg speed had returned.
"It was a fairly slow start, so I knew it was going to turn into a kicking race," True told reporters. "I was a little worried that it was turning into a kicking race coming off of the half marathon. The legs just weren't going to be there, especially with the guys like Gebrhiwet, one of the fastest kickers in the world, and it proved to be kind of true."
But True had a big advantage. He knew the turns on the out-and-back course better than anyone, and tried to position himself as best as possible for the final left turn before the 200-meter finish straight. Step one was to increase the pace to take a little of the advantage away from Gebrhiwet.
"I was pushing coming down the last mile," said True. "He made a strong move; I tried to follow him."
Then True caught a break. Gebrhiwet didn't know the course, and when True --with Curtin close behind-- went left, Gebrhiwet went straight.
"I got confused," Gebrhiwet told the media through a translator. "I didn't know which way to turn. So, I made a mistake."
True immediately looked to take advantage of the situation, but his advantage wouldn't last. Gebrhiwet, the 2016 Olympic 5000m bronze medalist, quickly recovered.
"He missed the turn, and I thought I could capitalize on his mistake, but wasn't able to and couldn't close that last half a second gap," True lamented. He added: "To be one hundred percent honest, whenever I lose a sprint I'm always very disappointed. I can't say I'm all that thrilled about it."
Down Charles Street, Gebrhiwet regained the lead and went through the tape first. True was half a step behind, with Curtin right on his heels. All three men were timed in 13:42.
"I thought I could maybe move on Ben, but he's so strong," Curtin admitted.
Eric Jenkins, who was also in that lead group with a kilometer to go, finished fourth in 13:44, and Philip Langat of Kenya rounded out the top-5 in 13:48.
women's race played out similarly. Diriba --the reigning champion who had already won the United Airlines NYC Half and the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile earlier this spring-- took a patient approach and saved her best running for the final sprint. She made the last turn with Ethiopian compatriots Fotyen Tesfay and Gotytom Gebreslase, and Kenya's Monicah Ngige, and the competition turned into a 200-meter drag race.
"I trained very well," Diriba said through a translator after the race. "I have the speed. I changed my gear at the end."
Diriba broke the tape first in 15:22, with Tesfay one second back, and Ngige a further second behind. Gebreslase was fourth in 15:27, and Molly Seidel --a 23 year-old former NCAA champion from Watertown, Mass.-- was fifth and the top American in 15:33.
At the NYC Half, Diriba had to overcome freezing weather, and seemed pleased just to be racing in more comfortable conditions here. Today's sunny conditions gave no hint that it will likely snow here tomorrow.
"The weather is very good, so I'm really happy," she said in English. "Yeah. Half-marathon is very cold. The weather is good, it's nice."
Behind the pros, about 9,000 runners runners ran this morning, kicking off the 122nd Boston Marathon weekend.
"It's the City of Boston that makes this happen," said B.A.A. chief executive officer Tom Grilk as he addressed the runners before this morning's race.
PHOTO: Hagos Gebrhiwet edges Ben True and Tommy Curtin (partially obscured) at the 2018 B.A.A. 5-K in Boston, Mass., in 13:42 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Hagos Gebrhiwet (left) and Buze Diriba after winning the 2018 B.A.A. 5-K in Boston, Mass. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
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