By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
WASHINGTON, D.C. (02-Apr) — The 50th edition of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile here this morning ended with a bang when Olympic steeplechaser Hillary Bor not only won the men’s division of the RRCA National and USATF 10 Mile Championships, but also claimed a $50,000 bonus for breaking Greg Meyer’s 40-year-old national record by just two seconds. Bor, 33, who represents Hoka One One and wore bib 13, clocked 46:11, three seconds behind overall race champion Tsegay Kidanu of Ethiopia. Including his prize money, Bor collected a total of $59,000.
“I came here to break the record and the weather wasn’t going to stop me,” Bor told Race Results Weekly, referring to the unusually cold temperatures and strong winds. “It’s something I’ve been working for since October last year.”
Last October Bor won the USATF 10 Mile Championships in St. Paul, Minn. He ran 46:06 in that race, a championships and course record, but that course was 31 meters downhill and not eligible for record setting. However, Bor and coach Scott Simmons realized that breaking Meyer’s mark was within his capabilities, especially because a faster time run by two-time Olympic medalist, Galen Rupp, was never ratified by USATF. Rupp ran a 10 mile split of 45:54 at the Row River Half-Marathon in Dorena, Ore., in October, 2020, but the paperwork for verifying that record was never completed or approved.
“My coach knew I was in really good shape to run 45 (minutes),” Bor said. “But, the weather’s not good today. The last two miles was just the wind on our face the whole time.”
Indeed, it was in those last two miles that Bor and Kidanu did their best to push each other. Kidanu, who represents Asics, was just trying to keep up the pressure on Bor.
“The wind was very strong and it made it very tough,” Kidanu told Race Results Weekly through a translator. He continued: “At the beginning there were a lot of us, but later only a few of us. But the wind made it very difficult. Two of us were able to prevail and we battled one another. In the end, I was able to win.”
In the final sprint to the line, Bor wasn’t really sure where he stood against the clock. The wind was so strong that the 9-mile marker blew down, despite being weighted with sandbags. Also, Bor started the race without his watch.
“Today, I didn’t have my watch so that was not really good because I didn’t know the splits,” Bor said, looking slightly embarrassed. “When I saw the split at 8 miles I knew I needed to run 4:45, but the wind was too much. I just put my head down and just grind, and grind, and grind.”
Biya Simbassa (Under Armour) finished a distant third in 47:09 and finished second in the national championships division. Kenya’s Charles Langat (Asics) was fourth in 47:25, and Jacob Thomson (Under Armour) took fifth –and third in the national championships– in 47:27.
Bor, who will return to the steeplechase during the track season, said that today’s race was all about self-belief.
“It shows if you put something in your head you can accomplish it,” he said.
The women’s competition was a tale of two races.
In the overall competition, Uganda’s Sarah Chelangat (Nike) surged away from the field just before the five mile mark. Her six-mile split was a snappy 4:56, and that put her 22 seconds ahead at that point. Despite running directly into the wind (and alone) in the final miles, she was able to extend her lead to 30 seconds by the ninth mile, and 33 seconds by the finish. Her winning time of 52:04 was excellent given the conditions, but she fell well short of the 51:23 world best for an all-women’s race which would have given her a share of the race’s $50,000 bonus pool.
Behind Chelangat, there was a heated battle for both second place overall and the USATF title. In the ninth mile, Emma Grace Hurley (Atlanta Track Club Elite), Sara Hall (Asics), Nell Rojas (Nike), and Molly Grabill (Unattached) separated themselves from the rest of the pack, all of them trying for the national title. As they crested the final hill before the course turns slightly downhill to the finish line, Hall and Rojas were locked in a sprint for the win. Hall, who is running the Boston Marathon in 15 days, got the best of Rojas, 52:37 to 52:38.
Hall, who turns 40 on April 15, almost skipped today’s race. She just returned from a family trip to Ethiopia where her training didn’t go well because she got sick.
“Honestly, I feel so thankful for today because four days ago I wasn’t going to race,” Hall told Race Results Weekly. “I had COVID last week and training was just so rough. I had a fever. I had two different viruses back to back.”
But like Bor, Hall had the power of self-belief working for her today.
“I think my whole career I’ve just chosen to show up,” Hall said, wrapped in an American flag. “So, just today I decided to show up and I’m really glad I did, especially with Asics sponsoring this event.”
While the wind –which Rojas called “nasty”– was a challenge, Hall saw it as an opportunity to prepare mentally for Boston where conditions can be difficult, too. She thought about the 2018 race where temperatures were just above freezing and athletes had to run through a driving rain storm.
“I was thinking about Boston because, you know, 2018 with that headwind and the storm,” Hall said. “I have Boston in two weeks, so this is just a good time to practice.
Like Bor, Hall had thought about trying for a share in the record bonus pool, but discarded that idea when she felt the power of the wind.
“Normally, I would have wanted to go for the record out here, but with the significant wind I didn’t know if that was going to be in the cards, so I just chose to compete,” she said. “I think this was a great opportunity to do that with Boston coming up.”
With her win here today, Hall has won a total of 12 national titles, four at 10 miles (2017, 2018, 2019, and 2023).
Hurley finished fourth (third American) in 52:41, and Grabill got fifth (fourth American) in 52:42. Defending champion Susanna Sullivan, who led most of the first half of the race, finished seventh (sixth American) in 53:25. She’s running the TCS London Marathon in three weeks and has been doing heavy mileage.
“I’m ready to run a marathon,” she said, smiling, as she changed into warm clothes in the athlete recovery area.
Some 16,000 runners competed today after about 6,000 ran the companion 5-K yesterday (which took place in the rain). Several former race champions were on hand to celebrate the 50th edition, including Kathrine Switzer (1973), Greg Meyer (1983), Eleanor Simonsick (1982 and 1983), and Bill Rodgers (1978 through 1981). Race director Phil Stewart reflected on how the race had endured for so many years and through so many cultural and political changes.
“Through Watergate, gas crises, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the invention of the internet, the first and second Iraq Wars, the 2008 financial crisis, America’s first Black President, two impeachments, an insurrection and the War in Ukraine, runners have returned each spring for what is known as the ‘Runners Rite of Spring,'” Stewart said at last night’s pre-race dinner.
PHOTO: Sara Hall wins the 2023 USATF 10 Mile Championships at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, D.C. in 52:37 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)