About 2.5 miles into this morning’s NYYR New York Mini 10K, Edna Kiplagat took attendance. Who’s in this lead pack? Who isn’t? Then she conducted a quick survey. Who’s looking good? Who isn’t?
Apparently satisfied with her findings, the 2010 ING New York City Marathon winner and 2011 IAAF World Marathon Champion readied herself. Just past the 5K mark, Kiplagat stepped out of the pack, veered over to a water table, grabbed a cup, stepped back into the pack, took the lead, and never gave it up.
At the 4-mile mark, near Engineers’ Gate, Kenya’s Kiplagat broke away from Ethiopian rivals Firehiwot Dado and Aheza Kiros, and soon after blasted down a hill toward the Central Park Boathouse—the same spot at which she surged to claim the Marathon victory in 2010.
Kiplagat, 32, would go on to win the 40th anniversary of the race in 32:08, 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Kiros. Hilda Kibet of the Netherlands finished third (32:34). Stephanie Rothstein, of Flagstaff, Ariz., finished as the top American and sixth overall, in 33:04, while her compatriot Desiree Davila was 11th in 33:38. There were 6,122 finishers, the most since 1997.
For her victory, Kiplagat earned $10,000.
“It was my plan to secure all of my energy for the downhills, the same thing I did in the marathon,” said Kiplagat. “The memories are still fresh, so I knew that if I had energy enough to push that maybe there was a good chance for me to break away from the group.”
American Lindsey Scherf took the lead from the starting horn in Columbus Circle, leading a large pack through the first mile in 5:16. Just past that first mile marker, a loud cry of “Go Lindsey!” pierced the air for the 25-year-old who grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y. Scherf pushed the pace on the downhill just before the two-mile mark, through which she took the pack in 10:29.
It appeared that Dado was the one in control of the race, shadowing Scherf the same way she did Kim Smith for almost 13 miles of the NYC Half this spring before pouncing in the final meters for the win.
By 5K (16:19), the pack was down to Scherf, Kiplagat, Dado, Kibet, Kiros, and Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi, with Rothstein about to join them. “I was feeling pretty good,” said Rothstein, who will try to make the U.S. Olympic Team at 10,000 meters at the trials later this month. “Then they started to throw down at four-and-a-half, five miles and I just held my place.”
As Scherf began to fall back, the leaders hit four miles in 21:10. Kiplagat began her breakaway, with Kiros and, briefly, Dado in pursuit. By the downhill, known as Cat Hill, Kiros was two steps behind, but she would never get closer as Kiplagat threw in a 4:49 mile to seal the deal.
“This race was an important race for me,” said Kiplagat. “I’m pleased because training for the marathon, I can see I still have good speed. This [winning] time is a good time for a marathoner.”
Kiplagat is training for the London Olympic Marathon, as is Davila.
“We tend to avoid racing [while in marathon training] because you can read too much into results,” said Davila of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project philosophy. “Any miles out there that were 5:20 or quicker were a bonus, and I had a few of those. It cost me a little bit at the end, so I also know what I need to work on.”
Finishing in 58:42 was Kathrine Switzer, a co-founder of the Mini in 1972 and the third-place finisher in that inaugural year. Now 65, she ran wearing her original Crazylegs Mini Marathon T-shirt from that event, the first women-only road race in the world.
“It’s not often in life you get the opportunity to participate in a revolution you helped create,” she said afterward. “It really is a gift. It’s just been wonderful how this sport has changed women’s lives.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg