By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (11-Jun) — Fifty years after California teenager Jacki Dixon won the first edition of the Mastercard New York Mini 10-K –the world’s first-ever road race for women, founded in 1972– Ethiopian Olympian Senbere Teferi took the title at the 50th edition here today in 30:43, the second-fastest time ever at this historic event. Teferi, 27, beat a superb field which included reigning Olympic Marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya and two-time Mini defending champion Sara Hall of Flagstaff, Ariz. In all, a dozen Olympians had signed-up for the race and nearly 7,000 women crossed the finish line.
Teferi, who also won the United Airlines NYC Half last March, earned $10,000 in prize money and added her name to one of the most prestigious winners’ lists in all of road running which includes names like Grete Waitz of Norway, Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain, Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands and Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, all global medalists who set world records.
“It was a tough race, and they were very strong athletes,” Teferi said of her rivals through an interpreter. “My hope was to keep running with them and at some point try to drop them.”
The race founders and organizers, New York Road Runners, used a new course this year because of a construction project in the northern part of Central Park and the city government’s desire to have the race run in a counter-clockwise direction, the way that traffic normally goes when the park’s roadways are open to vehicles. The new course was decidedly faster than the original course (which was slightly uphill) and most of the first two kilometers were downhill.
Teferi was at the front of a huge pack –about 30 women– through the first mile in 4 minutes and 58 seconds (about 3:05 per kilometer pace). Jepchirchir ran just over Teferi’s left shoulder, while 2020 USA Olympic Trials Marathon champion Aliphine Tuliamuk ran just behind Teferi on the right. Also in the front were 2021 USA Olympic Trials 10,000m champion Emily Sisson (making her Mini debut), USA marathon record holder Keira D’Amato, and 2019 Falmouth Road Race champion Sharon Lokedi of Kenya.
Tuliamuk, who finished second in the Mini in 2018 and third in 2017, wanted to get on the podium again today so she put herself in the mix right from the gun.
“I told myself that I wanted to race with the best of the world, to get in the mindset of how they race,” Tuliamuk told Race Results Weekly. “And that’s exactly what I did.”
The leaders hit 3 km in about 9:10, and that fast pace halved the pack to about 15. Moments later, the course began a series of two hills up Central Park’s east side. The second climb, known locally as Cat Hill, whittled down the field to just eight contenders: Teferi, Tuliamuk, Lokedi, D’Amato, Jepchirchir, Sisson, Caroline Rotich, and Violah Cheptoo. Teferi, still on the front, hit 5-K in 15:38.
Moments later, Sisson began to fall back. The hills had gotten to her.
“Whoever said that was a flat course was not telling the truth,” said Sisson who ended up seventh in 31:29.
The leaders turned left on the 102nd Street Transverse, then made a sharper left turn onto the park’s West Drive to head south for the finish in the center of the park. Tuliamuk, Teferi, Jepchirchir, and Lokedi were all still at the front. Sisson was well back, Cheptoo started to fall behind, and D’Amato was just a few steps behind the leaders running alone.
Then disaster struck. Climbing a short grade adjacent to the Central Park Reservoir in the eighth kilometer, Jepchirchir tripped and fell hard. It took a few seconds for her to regain her feet, and by the 8-K mark (24:50 for the leaders) she was well behind and D’Amato had passed her. Jepchirchir, who won the Boston Marathon 54 days ago, had to settle for fifth in 31:19.
Teferi kept the pressure on, and Tuliamuk was dropped on the other side of that grade. That left Teferi to battle with Lokedi for the win. As the two women passed the 800m to go sign, Teferi surged and Lokedi couldn’t respond.
“I knew I had won then,” Teferi said. “I was envisioning the tape in front of me at that point, and I was just able to finish well from there.”
Indeed, she did. Teferi covered the last 800m in a blistering 2:20 to put the race away. Lokedi got second in a career best 30:52.
But behind the top two women, a surprising battle was brewing for third place. D’Amato was gaining on Tuliamuk, and saw a chance to strike inside of the final 200 meters, despite being exhausted from all of the hills.
“It was a grind of a race,” D’Amato told Race Results Weekly. “I really like those pancake courses, and this wasn’t that. I just held as tough as I could and was able to kick my way into third.”
D’Amato passed Tuliamuk and finished third in 31:03. That mark made her the second-fastest American of all-time behind only Shalane Flanagan who holds the USATF-ratified record of 30:52. Had D’Amato beaten Flanagan’s mark today, it would not have counted as an American record because the course is slightly downhill. Still, she was thrilled getting on the podium in her first Mini.
“It was incredible,” D’Amato said. “New York shows up, and puts on just an incredible event.”
Tuliamuk got fourth in 31:08, also a personal best, and had only praise for D’Amato.
“I think I just ran out of wheels,” Tuliamuk said just after showing a friend a photo of her daughter, Zoe, on her mobile phone. “She’s just an incredible runner when it comes to speed and I was struggling so much. I always say, ‘may the best athlete win,’ and she got me today.”
Rounding out the top-10, Cheptoo finished sixth (31:24), Rotich eighth (31:30), Hall ninth (31:41), and Emily Durgin tenth in 31:43.
Susannah Scaroni dominated the wheelchair competition, clocking 21:10 to win her fourth Mini title. Her time was a big personal best, and she beat second place Jenna Fesemyer by over three minutes.
When Teferi is ready to run the TCS New York City Marathon (she has yet to make her marathon debut), she has a chance to join a very exclusive club. Only Britain’s Paula Radcliffe has won the Mini, the NYC Half, and the NYC Marathon during a career. Teferi said she would definitely like the chance.
“Yes, God willing,” Teferi said. “I hope that God will help me and, like her, I can also win the marathon.”
PHOTO: The lead pack just after one mile at the 2022 Mastercard New York Mini 10-K (Photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)