Kenyan sets new course record, wins third-annual event.
Story by Barbara Huebner
Lineth Chepkurui ended last season as the top racer on the U.S. road circuit.
So far, 2011 is looking a lot like 2010. The 24-year-old Kenyan who last year won seven of the top road races in the country crossed the finish line of Sunday morning’s third-annual BAA 5K in 15 minutes and 52 seconds, breaking the course record by more than a minute. In a race she led from gun to tape, her only moments of fear came before she even arrived at the Copley Square starting line.
“In the morning I was worried because when I woke up it was pouring,” she confessed. “I was so afraid of the weather when I started.”
But soon the overnight downpour morphed into a breezy mist, and by mid-race the skies were clearing and the day began to turn bright. Not, however, as bright as Chepkurui’s post-race smile as she recalled the crowd support along the 3.1-mile urban loop course, which ran along Boylston Street toward the Public Garden and around the Boston Common, passing the State House before heading back toward the Boston Marathon finish line.
“The cheers along the road were very amazing,” she said.
For her victory, Chepkurui will take home $5000 of the first-ever $30,000 purse.
Following the Kenyan sensation were Stephanie Pezzullo, 28, of Flagstaff, Ariz., in second place (16:21) and a local favorite, Stephanie Reilly, 33, of Northbridge, Mass., in third (16:23). Altogether, the top eight women were all under the previous course record of 16:52.
Pezzullo, a soccer star while at Penn State, has since turned to running, and ran a personal-best 16:11 in finishing sixth recently in the Carlsbad 5000. “I ran a little bit faster in San Diego,” she said, “but considering the weather, I’m happy.” Reilly, a national high school champion in her native Ireland who ran for Providence College, is the head coach of track and cross country at Bryant University. She, too, awoke to weather worries.
“It was like a hurricane,” she said. “I didn’t even know if the race would still be on. Right as I was leaving [the house], it started to settle down.”
Also breaking the previous record was masters winner Kathleen Jobes, 41, of Bethlehem, Pa., with a time of 17:37, and drawing cheers both at the start and along the course was three-time Boston Marathon champion Uta Pippig. Now 45, Pippig finished in 19:39, second in her age group.
Chepkurui is no stranger to success on the New England Roads. Last summer, her string of victories included wins in the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and the Run Gloucester! 7-Mile Road Race on Cape Ann, along with a runner-up finish at the Falmouth Road Race, so it is only fitting that she begin her 2011 campaign in Boston.
And future campaigns? With a wide smile, the 5K winner offered a hint of her career plans.
“I’m looking forward to coming here again,” she said. “This is so amazing, because of the Boston Marathon. I am so looking forward to not running on Sunday again, but to running on Monday.”