Tampa, FL. – it was a Monty Python-esque (but winning) day for the Northern Arizona Elite team out of Flagstaff, Arizona at today’s Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic – ”now for something completely different”. While a record 36 inches of snow blanketed Flagstaff, warm and humid conditions tested the fields in today’s half-marathon along Tampa Bay.
Notwithstanding, NAE’s Scott Fauble used a final 400-meter sprint to pull away from defending champion Elkanah Kibet of the U.S. Army’s WCAP Program, to take the $8000 first place purse in 1:05:09, four seconds up on Sgt. Kibet. On the women’s side, fellow NAU runner Aliphine Tuliamuk dominated her competition, taking the win in 1:12:29 nearly 2 minutes ahead of Boulder Colorado’s Becky Wade in second. Both NAE athletes are preparing for a spring marathon, Fauble in Boston on April 15, Aliphine in Rotterdam in six weeks time.
I rode on the lead men’s vehicle, waiting in the dark at the off-ramp just past five miles as the leaders came off Davis Island onto Bayshore Boulevard where the remainder of the race would be contested.
The six mile split was 29:57, a full :57 off last year’s time and the course record pace from 2017 (63:07, Christo Landry).
“It was windy out Bayshore,” said Fauble following his win. “Elkanah wanted to lead, and I didn’t want to do any extra work.”
Joining those two were last year’s runner up Parker Stinson out of Boulder, Colorado and Army WCAP runner Augustus Maiyo.
Those four stayed together through miles of 5:00, 5:23, 4:58, 4:58, and 5:07, hitting ten miles in 50:23. It was a testament to the 72-75F and 90% humidity wet-blanketing the course. Even my papers were damp in these conditions.
Finally, at 52:30 Parker Stinson began to falter, leaving the two WCAP athletes and Fauble to fight for the podium positions.
The 11th mile fell in 4:53 and one minute later the defending champ made the first serious move.
“I let the others push,” Faubs told me afterward, “because I wanted to kick off a faster pace.”
After a one minute surge, Kibet backed off to assess the damage. And Maiyo was now in jeopardy. Mile 12 proved the fastest so far, taking only 4:46. With one mile to go (60:34), only Kibet and Fauble remained.
The winning move proved chess-like for the 27 year-old Scott Fauble who ran seventh at last November’s New York City Marathon (2:12:28).
“ I haven’t done a ton of specific marathon work yet,“ said Scott as the Boston Marathon looms in mid-April. “But that’s good. I have lots of power. So every time I came up on him, I’d send him off again. And he became predictable. Then with 400 to go I went all out.”
It proved the perfect strategy. Something like what President Barack Obama was accused of doing throughout his presidency, leading from behind.
We famously saw this same strategy play out at the 2010 Chicago Marathon when Kenya’s late, great Sammy Wanjiru played a similar game with race leader Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia. Every time Sammy would challenge from behind, Kebede would spurt ahead, until all Kebede’s shots had been fired. Then Sammy threw in his winning move from 600 meters out.
Same thing happened at Tampa today with 400 to go. April 15th Fauble and Kibet will meet up once again in Boston at the full marathon distance. We will see who’s has the last laugh then.
- Scott Fauble – NAE – 65:09
- Elkanah Kibet – WCAP – 65:13
- Augustus Maiyo – WCAP – 65:22
- Parker Stinson Boulder, CO. – 66:29
- Aliphine Tuliamuk – NAE – 72:29
- Becky Wade – Boulder, CO. – 74:26
- Roberta Groner – Ledgewoid, NJ – 74:51
- Katie Matthews – BAA – 76:32
- Krystalanne Curwood – Arvada, CO. – 82:23