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Maine Native Ben True Wins Manchester

TRUE, NUKURI WIN 78TH MANCHESTER ROAD RACE
By David Monti, @d9monti

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

MANCHESTER,
CONN. (27-Nov) — With freshly fallen snow covering lawns and trees
around the course, Ben True and Diane Nukuri ran to strong victories
here this morning at the 78th Manchester Road Race, the oldest and
largest race in Connecticut.  True was timed in 21:34 for the
4.748-mile distance, and Nukuri clocked 24:38

True,
the reigning USA 15-K road running champion, had the pleasure –and the
challenge– of running against his training partner, and last year’s
Manchester champion, Sam Chelanga.  The two were side by side from the
starter’s gun, and worked together through the flat first mile (4:32),
then up the race’s big climb in the second mile on Highland Street.
 The pair managed to drop 2012 Manchester champion Aaron Braun when
they went through two miles (9:25) and the crest of the hill where
organizers offered a $1000 prime to the leader.  Chelanga got the
prime, a step ahead of True.

“Sam was
pushing it and I knew he likes hills a lot,” True told Race Results
Weekly.  “I always joke when we go running that I’ve got 50 more pounds
to lug up the hill than he does.”  He added: “Near the crest I told him
I wasn’t going to contest him; let him have it and really focused on
the finish.”

As the pair turned left
on to Porter Street just past the crest, True opened a slight gap and
the duo pounded down the steep downhill.  Behind them, Braun and Andrew
Colley were trying to keep it close, and by the 3-mile mark (13:57),
Colley had closed up on the leaders.  Chelanga, his lips chattering
against the cold, tried to stay relaxed.

“It
was like, let’s just have fun today,” Chelanga said.  “I know
everything about Ben.  I knew in my head everything was going to come
down to a kick.  He threw me off when he talked to me up the hill.”

The
trio was still together through four miles (18:23), and True was
clearly trying to drop both his rivals. He picked up the pace slightly,
and the three were running single file.  Colley was forced to let go,
and ultimately finished third in 21:43.

“It
was a great day,” Colley told Race Results Weekly.  “They got me on the
turn; they put a little surge in, and I wasn’t ready for it.”

It
was on that final turn onto Main Street where the chess match between
Chelanga and True began.  True kept the pace high, but wanted to save
something for the final 100 meters which are all uphill.

“It’s
a long straightaway so you can see for a while,” said True. “I wanted
to get over that first brick crosswalk; the bricks are a little slick
today.  Sam came up on my shoulder and I said, I’ve got to go now.”

True
got two steps on Chelanga, who soon looked over his shoulder for
Colley.  True crossed the finish line four seconds ahead of Chelanga,
picking up the $4000 first place check like his training partner had
done last year.

“I just wanted to emulate Sam,” said True.  “He got it last year.”

For
Nukuri, the finish was far less dramatic.  Using her knowledge of the
race –she’s run this event five times– and her strength as a
marathoner (she’s running the Honolulu Marathon next month), she upped
the tempo and began to pull away from the field.

“After
three miles I just started pushing,” said Nukuri, wrapped in a mylar
blanket.  “I couldn’t tell if I was running faster than everyone.  I
was like, I hope I don’t die.”

Her
pace held firm, and by the time she hit the final uphill she had a big
gap on miler Lauren Penny of the New Jersey-New York Track Club.
 Nukuri went on to win with an 8-second gap over Penney, who clocked
24:44.  Nukuri was genuinely surprised to get the win.

“It’s
not a hard course once you get on top of the hill,” she said.  “Anybody
can win it.  So, I really didn’t think, honestly, I was going for the
win.”

Penny was also happy, especially since she hasn’t done any speed training yet in advance of the upcoming indoor season.

“Last
year I was fourth and I was really excited with that,” said Penney.  “I
was feeling a little tired in my training last week, so I just figured
I’d come out here and see what I had.  Wasn’t expecting that, but very
happy with it.”

PHOTO:
Sam Chelanga (l) and Ben True battle in the final sprint at the 2014
Manchester Road Race

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