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Sprint Finishes, Record Field Highlight B.A.A. Half Marathon

                                                                                               
     

 

 

October
12, 2008

 


3,702
finishers sets new record for eighth annual event

 

Boston, MA — With foliage around Boston signaling the arrival of fall and temperatures in
the mid-50s, a record field enjoyed perfect running weather this morning for the
Eighth Annual B.A.A. Half Marathon, presented
by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. In total, 3,702 runners
completed the 13.1-mile loop of Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace park system.
Leading the way was one of the most talented elite fields the race has ever
seen.

 

The men’s race featured a host of
new faces, including Charles Munyeki (KEN), who ran 59:44 earlier this year,
making him the 10th-fastest man in the world for 2008. Joining Munyeki in the
field was his training partner, countryman, and the man who defeated him at the
Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon just seven days
earlier, Gilbert Okari.

 

Following a cautious opening mile of
5:07 and a quick 4:44 second mile, the lead pack consisted of four men: Munyeki,
Okari, their training partner James Koskei (KEN), and Karim El Mabchour (MAR).
That group stayed intact through seven miles when Munyeki and Okari began to
ease away. Koskei was the first to fade, in the eighth mile, then El Mabchour
faltered during the ninth. By mile 10 the two training partners had a 14 second
lead on third place.

 

Though the race was decided in a
final sprint toward the finish on Roberto Clemente Field, with Munyeki surging
ahead to break the tape, he knew much earlier that the race was in hand. Asked
when he knew he had won, Munyeki said, candidly, “During the last mile. I knew
it then.” Though just 22 years of age, Munyeki has already proven himself to be
a master of the half marathon distance. “I felt very good,” he said after
today’s effort. “It was very easy.”

 

Following the race, Okari confessed
that he is not yet accustomed to the half marathon. Though he has won many of
the top 10K and 12K road races on the U.S. circuit, Okari was competing at
the half marathon distance for just the third time. In addition, he was still
recovering from a knee injury which was aggravated by the hills and turns on
today’s course, forcing him to hold back. “My body’s not used to the half
marathon,” he said. “It will take me time.”

 

Just as Munyeki became the event’s
youngest male champion, Azalech Masresha (ETH)–just 20 years old–became the
youngest female champ ever. Though still relatively new to the sport (she began
running at the age of 16), Masresha showed her half marathon talents early,
running 1:11:59 as a 19-year-old. Today, however, she had to prove herself
against a talented field.

 

Six women quickly separated
themselves from the pack in the first mile, with Masresha a constant presence at
the front. She led through miles three, four, five and six, but none of her
rivals faltered until the eighth mile, run in 5:11 (the fastest of the day).
Slowly, Masresha and Irene Limika (KEN) began to pull away, trailed closely by
Neriah Asiba (KEN).

 

Like the men, the women needed every
last meter to determine a winner. Masresha was only able to separate herself
from Limika in the final strides, as the two crossed the line less than one
second apart. The pair’s times of 1:11:44 and 1:11:45 were the third and fourth
fastest ever run on this course.

 

Six women ran faster than last
year’s champion, Edna Kiplagat (1:13:36). Kathy Newberry (Williamsburg, VA), third last year in 1:16:44, improved by
three minutes yet fell to seventh place. A simple “Yes,” was Masresha’s response
when asked if she was surprised to have defeated such a strong field. “It’s a
hilly course–not an easy course. I’m happy that I won.”

 

While newcomers were victorious in
the men’s and women’s races, familiar faces triumphed in the wheelchair
division. Tony Nogueira (Glen Ridge, NJ) moved quickly to the lead in the
opening mile, aggressively attacking the first half of the course, which runs
gradually uphill. He could sense his challengers close behind, though. “The
competition was good [today], it kept me going,” he said. He ultimately broke
the tape in 53:07, tying his own course record, set in 2004. Nogueira’s win was
his fourth at the B.A.A. Half. He also won in 2003, 2004, and
2007.

 

Joining Nogueira on the victory
stand was women’s course record holder Laurie Stephens (Wenham, MA), the 2003 and
2004 B.A.A. Half Marathon champ. Stephens
cruised to a comfortable seven minute, 15 second victory over defending champion
Jacqui Kapinowski (Point Pleasant, NJ), finishing in
1:17:00.

 

The event’s presenting sponsor,
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund, has raised $1.4 million over
the past five years at the B.A.A. Half. With 334 runners taking part in the race
today, they hoped to exceed last year’s fund raising total of
$377,000.

 

TOP MEN

1. Charles Munyeki (KEN)              
1:02:46          
$5,000

2. Gilbert Okari (KEN)                     
1:02:48          
$3,000

3. Karim El Mabchour (MAR)         
1:03:42          
$1,500

4. James Koskei (KEN)                  
1:04:48          
$1,000

5. Abraham Ng’etich (KEN) 1:07:30          
$600

 

TOP WOMEN

1. Azalech Masresha (ETH) 1:11:44          
$5,000

2. Irene Limika (KEN)                      
1:11:45          
$3,000

3. Neriah Asiba (KEN)                    
1:12:11          
$1,500

4. Jane Gakunyi (KEN)                    
1:12:32          
$1,000

5. Jane Murage (KEN)                    
1:12:34          
$600



TOP MEN’S
WHEELCHAIR

1. Tony Nogueira (NJ)                     
53:07*            
$750

2. Gary Brendel (MA)                       
56:22             
$500

3. Timothy Kelly (MA)                       
1:03:34          
$250

* = tied course
record

 

TOP WOMEN’S
WHEELCHAIR

1. Laurie Stephens (MA)                 
1:17:00          
$750

2. Jacqui Kapinowski (NJ)              
1:24:15          
$500

3. Ellie O’Neill (NY)                           
1:28:26          
$250

 

A total of $30,000 in prize money
was awarded to the top overall, masters and wheelchair
finishers.

 

Established
in 1887, the Boston Athletic Association is a non-profit
organization with a mission of managing athletic events and promoting a healthy
lifestyle through sports, especially running. The B.A.A.’s Boston Marathon is the
world’s oldest annual marathon, and the organization manages other local events
and supports comprehensive charity, youth, and year-round running programs.

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