A 60 degree morning with light winds meant that the scene was set for some fast running at the fourth annual B.A.A. 5K, held the day before the 116th annual Boston Marathon. With the celebrated Marathon finish line as the backdrop - and serving also as the finish line for this race - there was anticipation aplenty that this year’s men’s race would be as thrilling as it had been 12 months previously.
On that occasion, Dartmouth grad, Ben True, had unleashed a blistering home straight finish to steal the win in a course record time of 14:06. One could hardly expect the same again this time around - enthralling tactics, a rocket-launched sprint finish, a record time; an absorbing race would be good enough. In the end, the vocal crowd all around the course got all of the above, and more - a repeat winner.
“A lot of people forget how long that finishing straight is,” proffered True, drawing on his experience of 2011 and moments after blowing away the field and the record. “I just bided my time.”
That was the defending champion’s tactic throughout the race. While Lani Rutto (KEN), Ali Abdosh (ETH), Sam Chelanga (KEN) and a group of others took turns at the front, pushing the pace, True held fast in the pack, rarely drifting to the front, but always remaining within striking distance.
A first mile of 4:35 indicated that the men at the front were intent on taking advantage of the good conditions. “We went out a bit quicker than last year,” avowed True. Rutto was the most aggressive through an opening mile that heads down Boylston Street and loops around the undulating Boston Common. Shadowing the Kenyan’s footsteps were Chelanga, Abdosh, Brett Gotcher (AZ), Aaron Braun (AZ) and a group of 10 or so others - including True - all holding tight formation.
It was close to the half way mark, that Rutto decided to up the ante still further. Making the left turn off Commonwealth Avenue onto Berkeley St and the right off Berkeley onto Boylston, Rutto pressed all the harder, opening inches of daylight. At two miles, the clock showed 8:58, with Rutto’s advantage - hard earned, though it was - increasing with every stride. By 2.25 miles, the Kenyan had opened a five meter lead on a pack that included Chelanga, Abdosh, True, Allan Kiprono (KEN) and Adrian Blincoe (NZL), and it appeared as though the writing was appearing on the wall.
The only trouble was, there was still a long way to go, and nothing was changing. Rutto had his gap, but it wasn’t growing and he had a pack of warriors close enough on his heels to give him plenty of cause for concern. Kiprono was the first to truly indicate that this race was far from over. Close to 2.5 miles, he inched away from the pack and drew quickly alongside the leader. As they made the left turn off Commonwealth Avenue onto Hereford St, Rutto and Kiprono were side by side. The uphill grade was sufficient to slow the impetus of the leaders and, suddenly, everybody was back and it was all to play for.
Making the left turn off Hereford back onto Boylston, six men wound into that oh-so-long home straight almost shoulder to shoulder. The finish line was visible, but still a long way away. Rutto led the pack, but Kiprono injected a surge that brought him into the lead. Then Chelanga wound it up and bolted for the line. But they were all preamble. True had been through this before and knew the moment to strike.
Having covered every move without making one of his own, the Yarmouth, ME native picked his spot perfectly. With 100m or so remaining, he blasted past Chelanga, opened an immediate two strides and hammered through the tape in a monster course record of 13:41, also claiming the $4000 first place prize money. Chelenga held on for second in 13:43 ($2000), with Blincoe coming through for third in 13:46 ($1500). The valiant Rutto claimed fourth in 13:46.
“I was a little worried with a mile to go that I didn’t have the legs today,” revealed the winner. “But that finish line is very long and I just bided my time. I’m pretty confident in my kick.”
- By Jim O'Brien