Friday, 24 November 2017 08:09

Paul Chelimo and Buze Diriba win in Manchester Road Race 2017

Molly Huddle got outkicked by Buze Diriba at the BAA 5K, a race she had won the previous three years, in April on Boston Marathon weekend.

She ran her best time for that race on the course that day — and Diriba beat her by two seconds.

That’s a little how she felt Thursday morning at the Manchester Road Race. Huddle finished one second under the course record, a record that has stood since 2003.

But Diriba was one second ahead of her, outkicking Huddle — who finished sixth in the 10,000 meters at the Rio Olympics — in the last few meters of the 4.748-mile race to win in her Manchester debut in 23:57.

The two women broke the late Emelie Mondor’s course record of 23:59.

“I’m very happy,” said Diriba, an Ethiopian who lives and trains in Albuquerque, N.M., and who has won numerous road races this year.

She added through an interpreter, “I didn’t think I was going to break the course record; I was thinking just to win the race.”
Paul Chelimo of Colorado Springs outkicked Kirubel Erassa and Chris Thompson to win the overall race in 21:32. Erassa, who moved from Ethiopia to Georgia when he was 11 and is a naturalized American citizen, finished second in 21:34 and Thompson, of England, was third for the second straight year in 21:36.

“We crossed the first mile in like 4:15,” said Chelimo, the silver medalist in the 5,000 meters at the Rio Olympics last year who competes for the U.S. Army’s World Class Athletes Program. “At that point, I was like, ‘Wow, it’s going to be a tough race.’

“My big goal was to come home with the win.”

About 13,000 runners and walkers converged on Main Street for the 81st annual Thanksgiving Day race. The weather was perfect for running, sunny and a bit chilly.
The top women went out fast.

“The first mile, I was under five minutes,” said Olympic marathoner Desi Linden, who finished fifth.

And could she see the leaders? “Barely, yeah. [They were] little blips, getting smaller.”

Huddle was in the lead, Diriba on her shoulder, barely breathing hard.

“She was very quiet,” Huddle said. “She sounded fresh. I knew it would be a sprint finish.

“I was trying to run course record pace, and I hoped it would drop her, but she hasn’t lost all year, and she’s been doing it by sitting and kicking a lot. I was trying to go again toward the finish, but I didn’t time it very well, and she’s just really quick. At 3 miles, I thought, ‘She sounds too good. That’s just how it’s going to be. Save something for the end.’”

She tried, but Diriba had a little extra.

“She pulled away with about 200 to go,” Huddle said. “I tried to go with her. It was like that the last 100 meters.”

Molly Seidel, an NCAA champion from Notre Dame, was third in 24:14.

“We went out really fast, and when I heard what the first mile split was, it was like, ‘Don’t be scared. Just go with it. Be brave,’” Seidel said. “They’re both enormously talented athletes, so to even be able to hang out with them for a little while and just keep going … I was just trying to hang on as long as I could.”

Thompson led a similarly fast men’s race, leading the way up the Highland Street hill.

“In a different way, I’m more pleased with this run than last year,” Thompson said. “It’s a satisfying feeling. To drop a field like that is, A) not easy, and B) Flipping scary. You’re running and you’ve got Olympic medalists running behind you. The best of the best. It’s scary stuff.

“I held off a lot of them. It’s not a bad thing to lose to that caliber of athlete.”

Chelimo and Erassa caught up with Thompson around the Highland Park Elementary School in the third mile, and the three ran together until the final 400 meters, when Chelimo broke away.

“Chris is a tough racer,” said Chelimo, 27, who finished fourth last year. “I tried to see what he would do. After the first mile, I looked back and there was a big gap. I tried to make a move. Chris was strong. He covered it. You’ve got to be patient. That’s what I was telling myself today: You just have to be patient. It’s not like a 5K, where I could push all the way.

“I wasn’t in good shape like this year. Last year, I made a really early move. After Mile 3, that’s like another two miles. I pushed really hard from Mile 2 to Mile 3 and when I got to Mile 3, I was spent. I’m like a 5K guy, and Mile 3 is around the 5K. At that point, I was tired. This year, I was trying to be relaxed as much as I could and as patient as much as I could. It’s a good day.”

HART FORD COURANT.