In Frigid Conditions, Cheserek Breaks Manchester Thanksgiving Day Record

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

PHOTO: Edward Cheserek of Kenya wins the 2018 Manchester Road Race in a course record 21:16 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

MANCHESTER, CONN. (22-Nov) — Despite a start-time temperature of only 16F/-9C and a tentative first mile, Edward Cheserek broke the Manchester Road Race record here this morning by three seconds, clocking 21:16 for the hilly 4.748-mile/7.65-kilometer course.  In addition, the 24 year-old Kenyan, who lives and trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., won by a whopping 28 seconds, one of the largest winning margins in the 82-year history of the race. (NER edit: The previous record of 21:19 was set by Phillemon Hanneck in 1995 and matched by Aaron Braun in 2012.)

Cheserek’s record run overshadowed a noteworthy road racing debut by two-time world U20 steeplechase champion Celliphine Chespol, 19,also of Kenya, who won the women’s race in a three-way sprint over defending champion Buze Diriba of Ethiopia and Emily Sisson of Providence, R.I.  Chespol’s time was 24:33, well off of Diriba’s 2017 course record of 23:57.

Both Cheserek and Chespol won $7000 in prize money, and Cheserek also picked up an additional $2000 for breaking the course record which was set by Zimbabwe’s Phillimon Hanneck in 1995.


At the outset, it certainly did not look like a record-setting day.  The men’s first mile split of 4:25 was modest by Manchester standards where the gentle downhill on Main Street sometimes pushes the pace down to sub-4:10.  Cheserek was already at the front of a 20-man-strong lead pack accompanied by defending champion Paul Chelimo, the American Olympic 5000m silver medalist from Rio; Scotsman Andy Butchart, running only his second race since breaking his foot during the 2018 indoor season; and Eric Jenkins, the two-time NCAA champion for the University of Oregon and a former teammate there of Cheserek’s.

As the race turned uphill on Highland Street Mo Hrezi, who lives in the United States but represents Libya in international competition, took the lead.  The contenders were content to sit-in because the climb is over a mile long.  There was even a little tripping and shoving because everyone was bunched so tightly.

Chelimo put in a little sprint as the pack approached the two-mile mark so he could collect the “King of the Hill” bonus of $1000.  The pack then crossed the two-mile mark in 9:25 (5:00 for the second mile), and Cheserek put in an  acceleration approaching the crest of the hill.  When Cheserek made the sharp left turn on to Porter Street, he had already built a 10-meter lead, and the 3:49 miler took full advantage of the plunging downhill in the third mile to put the race away.

“I tried to look around and no one was coming,” Cheserek explained.  “A lot of people were just making moves around, and I was like I don’t want to make moves around too much and maintain my speed. When you turn left downhill, you just go as hard as you can.”

It quickly became apparent to the others that they would be running for second today, and their priorities shifted to dropping the remaining chasers.

“Eric and Paul were just like, we should just go, just try to catch him and see if we can get away from the rest of them,” Butchart recounted.  “And then none of us really had the balls to do it.”

Cheserek hit the three-mile mark in 13:40 (4:15) and had nearly a half a minute lead.  Nonetheless, the 17-time NCAA champion wasn’t going to let up.  He pushed through the fourth mile alone in 18:03 (4:23), and although he wasn’t focused on the record, he said, he wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to be caught.  He looked behind him twice and saw nobody there.

“I looked back a little bit… and there was nobody coming,” Cheserek said.  “I tried to just go against the clock.”

Actually, it wasn’t until a reporter mentioned it during his post-race interview that Cheserek knew he had broken the record.

“I wasn’t thinking about the record,” Cheserek said, still looking surprised.  “I was just going for the win.  When I crossed the line, they were like, you got the record.”  He continued: “It was a very good time.”

In the sprint for the last two spots on the podium, Chelimo edged Butchart by one second, 21:44 to 21:45.  Kirubel Erassa was given the same time as Butchart, and Jenkins ended up fifth in 21:46.

In the women’s contest, Sisson led the way for most of the race.  She took it out hard, she said, in about 4:50 for the first mile, and Chespol and Diriba were content to draft off of her.

PHOTO: Celliphine Chespol of Kenya wins the 2018 Manchester Road Race in her road racing debut in 24:33 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

“It was fast,” Sisson told Race Results Weekly of the first mile.  “That’s typical for here… because you start downhill with the guys and all the excitement.  When we hit the mile I was like, OK, maybe we should slow down a bit.”

Sisson said she got into a rhythm at that point, and that the trio simply ran together, waiting for the final sprint to sort out the top places.  The wait ended with about 100 meters to go when Chespol surged up the final hill on Main Street.  Diriba and Sisson responded immediately.

“They put a surge in, like, that last hundred meters,” Sisson recounted.  “I’m pretty proud that I responded well.  Then there was that second one (surge) and I couldn’t.”  She added: “It was hard leading the whole race against those girls; I’m probably not up there with them quite yet.”

In the end, despite wearing a bulky green jacket for warmth underneath her racing kit, Chespol was a clear winner by a full second over Diriba.  Cold and exhausted, she crumpled to the pavement moments after finishing.  Diriba timed in 24:34, and Sisson in 24:36, well off of her 24:08 winning time from 2016.

“This is my first time to run road race,” the soft-spoken Chespol told reporters.  She continued: “We were three, so I decided to kick so to be the winner.  So happy; thank God.”

Well behind the elites, 72 year-old Amby Burfoot, a nine-time Manchester winner, completed the race for the 56th consecutive year.  His finish time was not immediately available.



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