By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(11-June) — Looking like the supreme world-class marathoner that she is, Kenya’s Jemima Sumgong took the 45th NYRR New York Mini 10-K with ease in Central Park, scoring the win in a brisk 31:26. Breaking away from American Aliphine Tuliamuk at five kilometers, Sumgong ran unchallenged over the final three miles to the finish at Tavern on the Green to take home the $10,000 top prize.

“My goal was to press the pace to the finish,” Sumgong, 31, told’s Carrie Tollefson post-race. “This one can help me because I can win myself and still have speed. It is a speed run for me, a tough 10-K speed for me.”

In a race that was billed as an Olympic Marathon preview, 17 Rio Olympic marathoners from 16 countries came together for a loop of Central Park on a very comfortable day for racing, with temperatures hovering around the 65-degree mark.

From the start on Central Park West just north of Columbus Circle, Sumgong took the pole and was joined by Tuliamuk, Burundi’s Diane Nukuri, and New Zealand’s Kim Smith. Yet by the time the leaders entered Central Park about two kilometers into the race, Sumgong and Tuliamuk had gained a ten meter edge and were alone in the lead running side-by-side.

Running smoothly with her compact, upright style, Sumgong controlled the tempo hitting the two-mile mark in ten minutes flat. Tuliamuk ran two steps off of her shoulder, keying off the woman who will lead Kenya’s Olympic Marathon team in Rio. With a resume like Sumgong’s –including a win at this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon and a runner-up finish at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon– she was the class of the field. The newly minted American citizen Tuliamuk was working hard to stay with her.

“She climbs the hills like a machine,” Tuliamuk later told an race official.

Splitting 5-K in 15:37, the pair were together, 12 seconds up on Nukuri and 17 seconds ahead of Smith. Passing the halfway checkpoint, Sumgong took a look at the clock and seemed to gain a boost of energy. Within 30 seconds she abruptly gapped Tuliamuk on one of the race’s signature uphills near the northern tip of Central Park.

From there, the roads of Manhattan’s most famous park belonged to Sumgong. Commanding the lead and the attention of thousands of spectators, Sumgong ran unchallenged through 8-K in 25:03.

When she looked back multiple times between eight and nine kilometers, all Sumgong saw was daylight. She  crossed the stripe in 31:26, giving Kenya their 14th title at this race since 1991. Tuliamuk managed to hold off a hard-charging Nukuri for second, 32:14 to 32:18.  It was Nukuri’s seventh appearance at the Mini and the third time she had finished in the top-5.

“It’s a fun race here because you get many people cheering, cheering squads all over the city, it’s a good race!” said Sumgong. “From now to Rio, it’s just preparation for Rio and training for marathon. Focusing on Rio now.”

Despite suffering a hard fall during the London Marathon, Sumgong’s training appears to be coming along nicely.  She admitted after the race that she had yet to begin hard marathon training because her hip and shoulder were badly bruised after her London fall. If history is any indication, good things are to come in Rio for today’s champion: two past New York Mini 10-K winners, Grete Waitz in 1984 and Deena Kastor in 2004, won the Mini mere months before earning Olympic Marathon medals (Waitz a silver and Kastor a bronze).

Words could not describe the excitement Tuliamuk had following her runner-up and top American showing. Draped in an American flag, she completed a victory lap then tried to describe the feeling. Four weeks after winning her first national title and just over a month after becoming an American citizen), Tuliamuk could hoist the stars and stripes with pride.

“I feel amazing, I am so happy. The race went quicker than I thought it would be, and I got to a point where I thought I might not be able to catch Jemima but then I was like ‘I’m going to hold on to second’ because I’ve been wanting to have one of these wrapped around me and I knew that if I got top three then I would have it. I am very happy,” she said. “You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to wrap myself in this flag.”

Tuliamuk will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials on the track in three weeks time, likely racing the 10,000 meters. Between now and then she will focus on speed-oriented training.

Rounding out the top five were Smith in 32:41 in fourth (her fastest 10-K since 2012) and Colorado’s Brianne Nelson in 33:02 (she won the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5-K last Saturday in nearby Albany.  Sixth place went to Desiree Linden in 33:17, running her own pace in preparation for the Olympic Marathon. Tomorrow Linden will depart for a training stint in Rio de Janeiro, learning the course and visualizing what the Games will be like.

Before today’s race, the New York Road Runners hosted the first ever Girls’ Run as part of the event, where girls ages 7-18 could experience the joys of running part of the Mini course, using the same start and finish line (the race was 2.25 miles). Taking part in the event was reigning USA 10,000m champion Molly Huddle, who earlier this week announced her intentions to make her marathon debut at the TCS New York City Marathon in November.

Huddle and Tuliamuk both spoke on the importance of inspiring the next generation of runners.

“I remember when I was younger, when I was about 10-years-old,” Tuliamuk recalled. “Tegla Loroupe (who won this race five times), I met her in Kenya and she gave me running shoes and I got so inspired and I wanted to be like her.  I’m hoping that the young girls will see us run, see Jemima who won London and won today, and get really inspired. Maybe ten or 15 years from now they will be the ones winning this race and they will say they got inspired by those who runners who ran in the 45th anniversary.”

PHOTO: Jemima Sumgong of Kenya winning the 45th NYRR New York Mini 10-K in 31:26. Holding the tape on the right is New York Road Runners President & CEO Michael Capiraso (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

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