Cleveland, Ohio — Kenyans Philemon Terer and Sarah Kiptoo of the AmeriKenya Running Club in Santa Fe, New Mexico battled the fields and then the heat at today’s 36th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon to notch the biggest wins of their respective careers. Terer broke free from Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Dube at 40K on the way to a 2:17:37 win. By dipping under 2:20 Terer added a $3000 bonus to his first place prize. Dube arrived at the Browns Stadium finish 33-seconds later to claim runner up honors.
Under conditions which changed from overcast and 64 degrees Farenheit to sunny and 79, Sarah Kiptoo still managed to chop a remarkable eleven minutes off her marathon PR with her 2:33:41 win. Two-time defending champion Mary Akor finished second in 2:36:03 while Charlotte, North Carolina teen Alana Hadley completed her much anticipated debut in sixth place with a 2:58:22 clocking.
The 16 year-old sophomore at Ardrey Kell High School was the most compelling story in today’s race without question. With attention coming from such outlets as the New York Times, the 10th grader who trains 100 miles per week and has a 1:16:43 half marathon PR was gunning for a 2:40 – 2:43 finish, though her coach, father Mark, adjusted that time by 2:00 this morning given the expected warmer conditions. And all was on pace as she came through the half-way mark in 1:22 in third place before the marathon gods decided to intervene.
“Right past the half we took a tight turn, and I wasn’t paying attention,” admitted Alana. “And I stepped wrong or something and my right hamstring twinged. Then it progressively got worst to the point where I was running seven-minute miles. And whenever I tried to go faster it would hurt even more. So I had to find a pace which would allow me to keep going.”
With the spotlight turned on and expectations high, it would have been both understandable and perhaps even prudent to pull up and live to fight another day. But as we are bound to discover in the coming years, this kid is a fighter who shows the strength of character and mind to push on even when she’s not on her A game.
“I never had a thought of dropping out,” she told me at the VIP brunch after the race. “So many kids are paying attention to how I would do, once I realized I wasn’t going to hit my goal time I said,’OK, 2:50 then. But no way I’m not finishing. I’ve never not finished a race, and I don’t want to ever DNF. So I just tried the best I could. With just two or three miles to go the three hour pacer went by me, and I said to myself, ‘just get in under three. Just beat that guy.”
The youngster had trained well for her debut, focusing the final eight weeks on the effort under the guidance of her dad Mark who was a runner in collete at the University of Mississippi himself, as was Alana’s mother Jennifer. Mark is a well-regarded coach who brought Molly PRitz to a 2:31 finish at the 2011 New York City Marathon.
In prepping for Cleveland, Mark had his daughter up her easy long runs from 20 to 24 miles, and her faster longer runs from 18 to 20. She also did a 15-mile simulation three weeks ago at home, going as far as wearing the same outfit she wore today, waking up at the same time, and drinking the same Powerade and water as would be handed out on the course. Mom and 12 year-old brother Bryce set up an aid station on the three-mile loop that Alana ran five times.
“Alana has an extreme long distance disposition,” Mark Hadley told me yesterday. “Her PRs from 5K to 10k only slow by 3½ % while most people drop off by 4½ %. It’s the same when we double from 10K to the 20K or half marathon.
“Mentally I seem to do better processing the fatique at longer distances,” she said. “And I enjoy them more.”
Toward that end, Alana is not planning on choosing a college based on its running program. Instead she will focus on which school might offer the best program for her interests in occupational therapy or sports medicine.
“Why should I go somewhere where I’d only be running a 10K maybe two or three times a year when my best distances are longer than that,” she asked rhetorically. “Why do something I don’t want to do?”
Her sixth place 2:58:22 might not have been the debut she’d hoped for, but it showed that she the 10th grader at Ardrey Kell High is made of sterner stuff than simple talent. And just like that other 16 year-old who is tearing up the record books on the track this year, Mary Cain, Alana Hadley looks to be a name we’ll see for a long time to come in this sport.
MORE WOMEN’S MARATHON
Race winner Sarah Kiptoo’s previous marathon best had been set last fall in Finland where she ran a 2:44. As a result she arrived in Cleveland somewhat below the radar. But like many young Kenyans before her, including last week’s Prague Marathon champion Caroline Rotich, it was after joining the AmeriKenyan Running Club in December that Kiptoo began to see marked improvement.
“She used to go into races tired, so we cut down on her racing schedule and focused specifically on Cleveland,” explained AmeriKenyan RC’s Scott Robinson, who accompanied Terer and Kiptoo to Cleveland. “She PR’d with her win at the St. Louis Half Marathon in early April at 1:12:51. Then she PR’d again two weeks ago at the Indianapolis Half in 1:12:26. That’s when we knew she was ready.”
“At the start I was leading Mary (Akor, the two-time defending champion),” explained Kiptoo, from Eldoret, Kenya. “I knew I was in better shape than in the past.”
California-based Akor had won the Pittsburgh Marathon just two weeks ago (2:37:35), just as she had last year when she came back to win her second Cleveland title in 2:39:49. And while she ran 2:36:03 today, the lack of fresh legs caught up with her and made the difference in the podium standings.
“We had targeted 2:38,” laughed Scott Robinson. “Then I saw her at 76 minutes at half-way, and I told her, “Sarah, you’re going too fast. But she said, “No. I am OK.”
This was the fourth marathon for men’s champion Philemon Terer, also of Eldoret, Kenya. His 2:13:49 PR came at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon where the pace went out in 62:40 for the first half, after which Terer faded badly in the second half. Today, the halfway was reached in a more modest 69:20 with five men cabled together in the lead pack.
“But he looked like he was jogging,” said Bob Rosen of Amherst, Mass., who serves at Terer’s U.S. based coach. “He surged after that, and only the Ethiopian could go with him. He tried breaking away with another surge, but when Dube still answered that, he decided to wait till the end for one big move.”
Back home Philemon is coached by former Cleveland 10K champ Yobes Ondieki, the first man to break 27:00 for 10,000 meters on the track.
In the accompanying 10K, Moroccan Najim El-Qady busted free from Shadrack Kiyai of Kenya and Zap Fitness’s Cole Atkins at three miles to win going away in 28:46. Kiyai took second in 29:31 and Atkins arrived third in 29:53.
“I’m pleased with my place,” said Atkins afterwards. “But when he moved he really took off. The Kenyan tried to stay with him and then started dying near the end. Now I wish I would have tried hanging in a half-mile longer cause I was closing down on second at the end, but just ran out of room, but it was really windy from three to five miles.”
In many ways Cole Atkins is still a rookie, himself. Though 27 years of age, he’s only been running for five years after a career spent as a soccer player at High Point University in North Carolina. But after debuting on the track in 2010 at 29:20 for 10,000 meters, Pete Rea of Zap Fitness came calling.
“I only started running in 2008,” said the Charleston, S.C. native. “My body has been adjusting to the extra mileage. I was 180 pounds when I began. I’m glad I figured out I was a runner before too late.”
Cole finished a solid fifth at the recent Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia, ringing up a 47:44 PR. Next up will be the Portland Track Festival in couple weeks and then the half marathon in Duluth at Grandma’s Marathon.
“It’s the USATF National Half championship,” said Cole. “And they have really good time bonuses. Sub-66 gets you an extra $500, sub-67 gets $750, and sub-64 is worth $1000 over and above the prize money.”
Grandma’s Half will be his debut at the distance. He’ll have two top five finishes in his last two competitions to bolster his confidence.
In the women’s 10K, 2011 runner up Risper Gesabwa of Kenya got over the hump and beat two-time defender Everlyne Lagat 33:22 to 33:42 to take he 10K women’s title. 31:51 Crescent City Classic 10K champ and pre-race favorite Alice Kimutai finished a disappointing fourth in 34:01. Madison, Ohio’s Jessica Odovcic was top local and top American in fifth in 34:18.
In all a record field of nearly 22,000 runners toed the lines in the series of races in Cleveland this weekend, 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon. This was the 11th year with Rite Aid Drug Stores as the title sponsor.
Event Executive Director Jack Staph and race director Ralph Staph continue to put on a first-class event in one of the nation’s longest running race weekends.
Running legends Anne Audain, the seven-time 10K champ and event record holder at 31:45 and Boston and New York City Marathon icon Bill Rodgers were on hand to lend their support and inspiration.