By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
CAPE ELIZABETH, ME., (6-Aug) — In a triumphant homecoming, Maine native Ben True gave locals something special to cheer about, becoming the first American in TD Beach to Beacon 10-K history to claim victory. Tracking down Kenyan William Malel Sitonik in the final mile, True emerged atop Fort Williams with an eleven second margin, finishing first in 28:17. Behind him, countryman Dathan Ritzenhein took second in 28:28 to complete a patriotic one-two punch.
For the women, Mary Keitany was the class of the field, demonstrating her poise and dominance by breaking the course record in 30:45. It was Keitany’s second win and second course record in the span of a week.
BEN TRUE BOUNCES BACK WITH A VENGEANCE TO CLAIM MEN’S TITLE
While the Olympics may have kicked off in Rio de Janeiro last night, a strong American contingent came together here within the opening mile, forming an impromptu Team USA pack. Clustering together at the head of the field were U.S. Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Abdi Abdirahman, joined by True, Sam Chelanga, and Eric Jenkins. As if running in the parade of nations, the Americans came first, followed by Kenya and Ethiopia.
It was Ritzenhein who took control after a mile, focused on keeping the pace somewhat honest. With conditions extremely humid and no breeze, all were apprehensive about being aggressive; the mile was hit in 4:51 followed by two in 9:29. Ritzenhein seemed the only one focused on maintaining a hard tempo.
Passing underneath a giant flag at five kilometers, the pack had been dwindled down to six: Team USA had True, Ritzenhein, and Jenkins. Team Kenya was represented by Sitonik, Daniel Salel, and two-time champion Micah Kogo.
First to go was Sitonik, surging on the undulating course’s multiple downhills. Making his road racing debut here, Sitonik bolted down a steep hill at four miles then kept peering back over his shoulder as if asking the others whether he was making a good or bad move. Though he appeared strong, Sitonik’s lack of experience would come back to haunt him.
Maintaining a five-second gap on Ritzenhein and True, Sitonik swung wide at the five-mile water stop. He reached for two cups, staying towards the outside of the road while Ritzenhein and True hugged the tangent and bypassed any fluids. Sitonik’s lead was instantly cut in half, just the boost of confidence the American duo needed entering the final mile.
“He’s a novice I guess, first road race. It’s amazing, cutting the tangents. If you cut the tangent on a two lane road like that you can cut off ten or fifteen feet pretty easy,” Ritzenhein said. “That was the difference.”
“I thought [Sitonik] was gone. We were working hard to try to catch back up to him,” True said, later adding “you just try to stay on it, keep grinding it out, not relax at all and keep the foot on the gas pedal and hope that one of the guys is going to falter first and hope it’s not you.”
On the last downhill before entering Fort Williams Park, True let loose. Touching the lead for the first time since mile two, the North Yarmouth, Maine, native seized the opportunity to pounce on Sitonik and gap Ritzenhein. He pick-pocketed the former and didn’t let up through Fort Williams’ final winding kilometer.
From the lead vehicle, True’s manager (and running mentor) Matt Lane quipped that if True kept the lead with 600 meters left, there was no chance anyone could touch him. “He’s running pissed,” Lane said, referencing True’s disappointment and frustration from not making the Olympic team at 5000m. “He’s angry, and this is his time. It’s his home race.”
Indeed it was his time. Emerging in the finish straight first, True broke the tape with 28:17 reading on the clock. It was the first time an American had won here in race history.
“It feels great. I have to admit, it’s a little bittersweet cause I wish I was in Rio right now, but it’s always nice to come here at home and run in front of a home crowd and all the familiar faces,” he said. “It was a lot of fun today.”
True noted that the win is special not only because it comes a month after missing out on Rio, but also because it’s a chance to give back to race founder and Olympic Marathon gold medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson. For years, Samuelson has hoped an American would finish first at her hometown race. It’s only fitting that a Maine native and close friend in True made that happen.
“Joanie and I go way back, and winning this race has always been a goal of mine. It’s great to be able to get it done,” said True. For the win, he takes home $15,000 ($10,000 for the win plus $5000 for top American honors). “With these international 10-K’s, I always say that if I’m in the race at 8-K, at five miles, it’s very hard for them to shake me in that last mile because I’ll be so determined to hang on. Luckily I was still ready to have some fight in me.”
Ritzenhein, second in 28:28, was also pleased for True. While he would have liked to win, Ritzenhein knew True was motivated to bounce back on home soil. “I was really happy. Ben’s obviously the hometown guy here and so everyone’s cheering for him. If I had beaten him here they probably wouldn’t like me and I wouldn’t be back next year!” he said with a laugh. “He’s so fit still… For me to be right in there, I feel really good where I’m at.”
Looking strong and in great shape, Ritzenhein took a lot of confidence from today’s race. He led a majority of the first two and a half miles, and kept in touch with the leaders until True’s winning move. Ritzenhein said he’ll utilize confidence gained as he begins to buildup for the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6.
Sitonik was third in 28:32, followed by Salel in fourth (28:44) and Kogo in fifth (28:58). Sitonik said he hit a wall with a kilometer left –just the point he was passed by True and Ritzenhein. Yet that wasn’t the only issue.
“I could not drink water. I didn’t know how to drink water,” Sitonik said, referencing that he never practiced drinking while racing. With the humidity and temperatures high, the heat took its toll. “This is different than track running,” he added, shaking his head.
Americans rounded out the top ten: Chelanga sixth (29:09); Jenkins seventh (29:10); Abdirahman eighth (29:16); Patrick Smyth ninth (29:21); and Joe Bosshard tenth (29:27).
Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Tariku Bekele wound up a very distant 14th in 30:35.
KEITANY CRUISES TO WOMEN’S RECORD IN 30:35
If one had to bet on a women’s champion here, the money would be on Mary Keitany, the two-time TCS New York City Marathon champion. Coming off a course record at the Quad-City Times Bix 7 Miler in Iowa last Saturday, Keitany made her Maine debut one to remember. With an inaugural women’s only elite start ten minutes before the masses, Keitany took her spot and asserted herself quickly thereafter.
The first mile (net downhill) was passed in 5:17. That, Keitany thought, was too slow. “The first mile downhill we were all together and everyone wanted to be in front. I said ‘let’s go.’ After two miles we started to pick it up and at three miles I said, ‘move on,’ to see if I could be able to maintain my pace alone. I tried and I made it,” Keitany recalled.
In essence it was as easy as that. Keitany, defending champion Wude Ayalew, and Caroline Chepkoech broke away within the race’s opening ten minutes. The three would run through halfway together; that’s as far as Keitany allowed.
“I maintained my pace through the hills,” she said. “I just thought maybe the ladies would go with me further, but any case when I was at three miles my body was moving and I had 5-K remaining so I said let me adjust my pace and move.”
One observer described Keitany’s move as “commanding.” Another said it was “sheer dominance.” She dispatched with Chepkoech on the hills towards Fort Williams, then took care of defending champion Ayalew.
Seemingly unchallenged, Keitany broke the tape in 30:45, crushing Lineth Chepkurui’s previous record of 30:59.4 by nearly 15 seconds.
“I think I am really happy because after what I have done today. It was amazing to me because winning two races with course records, it’s good to me and I am happy. I’ve come to Beach to Beacon for the first time and I’ve won in a course record!” the quiet Keitany said, followed by a smile. Ayalew was second in 31:40; Chepkoech third in 32:03.
Top American honors went to Emily Sisson, fourth in 32:21. Sisson’s day didn’t end at the finish: according to race officials, the Providence College graduate succumbed to the heat and was taken to the medical tent. Officials told Race Results Weekly that Sisson’s temperature had risen severely, then dropped. She was in the tent for at least an hour and a half.
Three seconds back of Sisson was Aliphine Tuliamuk, fifth in 32:24. Sara Hall (32:46) and Jordan Hasay (33:04) were sixth and seventh.
“I’m so glad I was able to come out here and have a strong race after the depressions from the Trials. It’s nice to get back into the racing mode,” Tuliamuk said. She was eighth at the U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000m. “Emily was very strong, I’m definitely proud of her.”
In total, 6,332 runners finished this morning’s race, just shy of the race-record 6,595 last year.