Gebremeskel Prevails Through Cold and Windy Conditions to Capture 2016 B.A.A. 5K Crown
By James O’Brien
Chilly temperatures in
the mid-40s and blustery winds greeted the thousands of runners
gathered on Boston Common to contest the eighth annual B.A.A. 5K.
Twelve months previously, Ben True had scorched to a national
record-setting 13:22 victory. True was back this year, though hampered
by a hip injury that had forced him to skip March’s NYC Half and take
two full weeks off from running.
“It didn’t feel good while I was warming up,” commented the defending champion.
Intending to make this
all the more challenging for the New Hampshire resident – who is
married to Rio de Janeiro Olympic triathlete Sarah True – were Dejen
Gebremeskel from Ethiopia, the winner here in 2013 and 2014; Stephen
Sambu and Philip Langat from Kenya, both experienced competitors on
this course; and a handful of hardened US road racers, including Diego
Estrada, Joe Stilin, and Tim Ritchie. With $39,900 in prize money on
the line, it was never going to be easy.
At the stroke of 8:00
a.m., the field bolted away from the starting line under bright sunny
skies. As expected, the opening circuit of Boston Common saw a
cumbersome lead pack jostling and elbowing for position. As the leaders
made the left turn onto Commonwealth Avenue, everybody who was supposed
to be in contention was at the front, with True, Sambu, Gebremeskel,
Philip Langat (KEN), Estrada, Kennedy Kithuka (KEN), Stilin, Ritchie –
the whole gang- all there and rolling hard.
The tailwind along Comm.
Ave encouraged the leaders through an opening mile of 4:25, with True,
Sambu, Langat, Gebremeskel and Estrada fronting a pack that, by that
point, had been pruned to nine. Gebremeskel, the Olympic 5000m silver
medalist from 2012, appeared intent on keeping the pace honest, but he
was going nowhere that the world class pack in his wake wasn’t going,
At Charlesgate West, the
course took a U-turn, bringing the field back along the opposite side
of Commonwealth Avenue and converting a helpful tailwind into a
troublesome headwind. “It was SO windy,” commented Sambu after the race.
Even so, the leaders
stayed bunched; Ritchie, Stilin and a handful of others appearing to
weaken as True, Sambu, Langat and Gebremeskel forced the pace. Estrada
also continued to hang in, looking comfortable and smooth, despite the
wind, despite the chill and despite the increasing intensity.
Hammering back along
Commonwealth Avenue, the leaders made a right turn onto Hereford
Street, greeted quickly by the two mile mark and a split of 8:54
(4:29). True and Sambu fronted the field, with Estrada, Langat,
Gebremeskel and Stilin just a half stride in arrears. An almost
immediate right turn onto Boyleston Street was the first catalyst for
the fireworks to begin. It may be the broad, downhill sweep; or it may
be the sight of the fabled Boston Marathon finish line 400 meters or so
ahead; or it may simply be that the leaders, at this point, are in the
final mile and it’s time to set things straight. Whichever, Sambu
became the aggressor, clearly intent on drawing the sting from the
kicks of True and Gebremeskel.
“I was feeling good, so I tried to push it,” Sambu commented. “I like running in front. I feel like I’m controlling the pace.”
He was, but it made
minimal difference. Though Estrada and Stilin were weakening, True and
Gebremeskel were implacable, while Langat was hanging tough. It was
with 600 or so meters remaining that the real moves started to unfold.
Gebremeskel upped the ante; True worked hard to cover, but Sambu and
Langat had little left in the tank. Taking the left hand turn onto
Charles Street and the finish line, the Ethiopian star had 10 meters in
hand, a margin he maintained as he blasted through the finish line with
13:39 showing on the clock. True followed two seconds later, with Sambu
at 13:44 and Langat at 13:54.
“I tried to break the course record,” Gebremeskel explained, “but it was really cold.”
True took comfort in the
fact of placing so well despite his interrupted training. “During the
race, my hip was OK,” he stated. “I didn’t like losing, it doesn’t
matter what the accolades are of the winner.”
accolades aplenty. Now a three-time winner of this race, plus the
B.A.A. Invitational Mile last year, inexplicably, he was overlooked for
the Ethiopian team for March’s World Indoor Championships in Portland,
Oregn. The Rio Olympic Games loom large in his future. “I’ll try the
5000m,” he explained, “and then decide about the 10,000m.”
For their 1-2-3,
Gebremeskel, True and Sambu earned $7500, $4000 and $2500 respectively.
Interestingly, in 2014 when True was second, Sambu was third. In 2015,
when True won, Sambu was second. This year, with True again second,
Sambu was, again, the man immediately behind him.
In Boston over Marathon
weekend, “tradition” is a word that crops up frequently. With eight
editions completed, the B.A.A. 5K appears to have created a tradition
of its own: one of world class competition, blistering speed and a
returning cast of the world’s finest athletes. That’s a tradition that
is all set to continue.
ABOUT THE BOSTON ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (B.A.A.)
in 1887, the Boston Athletic Association is a non-profit organization
with a mission of promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports,
especially running. The B.A.A.Ûªs 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.
Since 1986, the principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon has been John
Hancock Financial. The Boston Marathon is part of the Abbott World
Marathon Majors, along with international marathons in Tokyo, London,
Berlin, Chicago, and New York City. More than 60,000 runners will
participate in B.A.A. events in 2016. The 120th Boston Marathon will be held on Monday, April 18, 2016. For more information on the B.A.A., please visit