Ask anyone in Sunday’s USA 10-Mile Championships in the Twin Cities and they’ll say the weather definitely had an impact on their strategy. “It was freezing so nobody wanted to take the lead,” said Mohammed Trafeh after defending his title in 46:56.
Temperatures were around 29 degrees F. at the start in Minneapolis.
“After five miles I figured, ‘You know what, everybody’s here, I gotta start pushing the pace,’” said Trafeh. Although his time was only 10 seconds slower than his winning time last year, when temperatures were closer to the mid-80s, Trafeh nonetheless said he adjusted his plan. “Because it was cold I tried to take my time to warm up, but, to be honest, I never warmed up, so I said, ‘I might as well just go for it.’ If it was warmer I would prefer to take it out from the start. I would love to get the course record but it was too cold.”
Not only was Trafeh chasing his second-consecutive title and the $12,000 first-place prize, he was chasing the women’s field for a $10,000 equalizer bonus that Medtronic TC 10 Mile race officials added to the purse. It was a goal that motivated him to surge past Janet Bawcom, who would go on to defend her title, as well. It was the second consecutive year that Trafeh passed Bawcom for the bonus.
“I ran my fastest splits of the race the last two miles,” said Trafeh. “I saw Janet with more than a mile to go and I just started pushing and pushing with half mile to go down that hill.”
Ben True finished second, in 47:19, and Jacob Riley followed three seconds behind.
The women’s field started the race six minutes ahead of the men, and Bawcom said she went into the race planning to attack. “I’ll do anything to outrun the guys on Sunday,” she said Friday during a pre-race press conference.
With eight women in the lead pack, the three 2012 Olympians (Bawcom, Kara Goucher, and Julie Culley) pushed the pace through the first four miles. Goucher, who grew up in Duluth, MN, maintained a close second throughout the race, finishing just 13 seconds back coming off an 11th-place finish in the Olympic Games marathon. Goucher set the Medtronic TC 10 Mile course record of 53:16 in 2008.
Alisha Williams was third in 54:08, with Culley fourth. Both are training for the ING New York City Marathon on November 4, as is Bawcom.
Bawcom, who won her sixth national road title in the past two years, said the women in today’s race stepped up to push the pace. “There was not a point I thought, ‘I’ve got this.’ I knew Kara was behind, Alisha was right there,” she said. “Alisha is especially a good kicker, I knew she would be up there for sure. I just put my head down and just tried to get to the finish.”
Her teeth chattering, the Kenyan native said she hasn’t run in this cold all year and just wrapped up her training in Kenya. She now heads to Flagstaff, AZ, for her lead-up to NYC. “This was a really good check in the middle of a month to go [before New York]…so I think I can figure out what I still need to do.”
Surprising many in the men’s race, course record-holder Abdi Abdirahman finished 14th, with a time of 48:12. Abdirahman spent the summer rebuilding from a mid-race knee injury that forced him out of the London Olympics marathon in August.
At mile 6 on Sunday, Abdirahman said, his hamstring began to act up. “The cold weather and the hamstring don’t mix together, so I was kind of getting scared and I said then I was going to stop and I said, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to stop my race.’”
Neither, he said, did he want to jeopardize his chances in the ING New York City Marathon, to which he is committed, so he throttled back while carrying on to the finish.
In a pre-race interview, the 35-year-old said, “I never thought I’d be competing until 2012,” and mused that retirement may not be far off. But before any further thoughts of that, he heads back to Tucson, AZ, to resume training.
The USA 10-Mile Championships were part of the Medtronic TC 10 Mile, hosted by Twin Cities in Motion.
Photo: Janet Bawcom winning USA 10-Mile title, by Kristine Smith