On a busy day of top-caliber road racing, professional athletes on Sunday ran the gamut from vying for the title of U.S. 5K champion to tuning up for major fall marathons.
On the shorter end of the distance spectrum, Ben True came back from the bout of Lyme disease that ruined his chances at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials to defend his U.S. title in the CVS Caremark Downtown 5K in Providence, RI. True barely squeezed past Andrew Bumbalough at the line to win by one-tenth of a second, in 13:52.0.
“I got him in maybe the last 20 meters,” said True, 26, of Hanover, NH, of the dramatic finish. “I knew from last year that the hill at the end took a little a bit out of you, so the plan was to make sure I had something left.”
True became the first back-to-back U.S. champion at 5K since Odis Sanders in 1980 and 1981.
Robert Cheseret, the 2010 winner, took third in 13:53.5. True became the first back-to-back U.S. champion at 5K since Odis Sanders in 1980 and 1981.
Winning the women’s title was local favorite Molly Huddle, who outsprinted newcomer Neely Spence for victory in 15:29.9. Spence finished in 15:33.7.
Huddle, the 2010 champion here and the U.S. record-holder at 5000 meters on the track, has lived and trained in Providence for the past five years. She controlled the race much of the way before sealing the win with about 100 meters remaining.
“I don’t think I got more than a few steps away from her until the last 100 meters,” said Huddle. “It was good to have everyone here and have a hard, fast race.”
Finishing third was Liz Maloy, 27, in 15:36.7.
Spence, 22, declared herself pleased with the result of her first serious road race. “I knew that it was a great field, so I just wanted to stay as relaxed as possible and see how long I could hang on,” she said. “Of course it’s always the perfect situation if you would win, but I think I can handle being second behind the American record-holder.”
True and Huddle each took home $8,000 for their victories.
Biwott, Cherop Take Fast Philly Half
About 275 miles down Interstate 95, the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon was won handily by favorites Stanley Biwott and Sharon Cherop, both from Kenya, in 1:00:03 and 1:07.21, respectively. Biwott’s time was the third-fastest in the 35-year history of the race, while Cherop’s was the second-fastest ever run on U.S. soil, behind only Kim Smith’s time of 1:07:11 at the same race last year.
"I wanted to come and break the course record, but I just missed it by a little bit,” said Cherop. “This race is not completely flat, you know?”
Dathan Ritzenhein, the 2012 Olympian at 10,000 meters who is preparing for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, was third for the men in 1:00:57. Finishing eighth in a tune-up for his marathon debut at the ING New York City Marathon on November 4 was Scott Bauhs, in 1:04:24.
"That's the pace I want to run in New York,” he said. “I definitely wouldn't have wanted to run any slower here. I guess this was my clich́é half-marathon tune-up race: It felt pretty easy, but I couldn't have gone much faster. I didn't really back off in training, and just came down from altitude, so I felt a little flat. I'm excited to get up to New York and check out some of the course over the next few days. I enjoy anytime I can come to New York and not have to run a race."
Biwott, 26, winner of the 2012 Paris Marathon in 2:05:12, and Cherop, winner of the 2012 Boston Marathon, are both training for a fall marathon.
Dibaba, Kipsang Reach Goals in Newcastle
And across the Atlantic Ocean in Newcastle, U.K., Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, a three-time Olympic gold medalist at 5000 meters and 10,000 meters, won her half-marathon debut at the Bupa Great North Run in 1:07:35.
Running personal bests behind her were Edna Kiplagat of Kenya in 1:07:41 and Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia in 1:07:48. Kiplagat is the 2010 ING New York City Marathon winner and 2011 IAAF World Champion at that distance; Gelana recently won the 2012 Olympic Marathon.
Setting the pace through 15K was two-time ING New York City Marathon winner Jelena Prokupcuka of Latvia. At about 17K, Kiplagat took over, with Gelana on her heels and Dibaba a few meters behind. With 800 meters remaining, Dibaba moved ahead for the win. Kiplagat and Gelana are both planning fall marathons, while Dibaba hopes to make her highly-anticipated marathon debut sometime in 2013.
On the men’s side, Olympic bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang of Kenya won in 59:06, edging out his compatriot Micah Kogo by one second.
“I recovered well after the London Olympic race because it was not such a fast marathon,” said Kipsang. “Maybe I will now run another marathon this autumn.”
Photo: Ben True, #80, and Andrew Bumbalough, #9, start the U.S. 5K Championships. Credit: ScottMasonPhoto.com