New American Celedonio Rodriguez wins fifth annual B.A.A. Half Marathon in huge upset
Less than two weeks ago, Celedonio Rodriguez became a U.S. citizen. Born in Mexico, Rodriguez was raised in Santa Rosa, Calif., and is a three-time NCAA Division II champion out of Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo. where he still lives and trains. Although he had two amateur half-marathon victories under his belt in small races near his childhood home in California, he finished 13th in his first “elite” road race, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, over Labor Day weekend.
Underdog? To many of his rivals on the line at the B.A.A. Half Marathon, Cele Rodriguez was virtually underground.
Not anymore. After bolting to a quick lead alongside Ireland’s Vinny Mulvey, Celedonio took off alone before the second-mile mark and ran a surprise solo effort the rest of the way to win in 1:04:09, a personal best by 41 seconds. His victory netted him $5000. Finishing second was Samuel Ndereba of Kenya (1:04:21), and third for the second consecutive year was Abderrahim Haji of Morocco (1:04:26).
Mulvey, who was 10th here last year, took off at the sound of the horn, and Rodriguez daringly decided to, as he said, “follow the leader” and then spontaneously came to the conclusion that “well, I’m up here so I might as well keep going.” They ran side-by-side for a few minutes, during which Rodriguez received a useful bit of information from his Irish companion, who finished 10th here in 2004: the race started out slow last year, too.
“I thought, hmm, these guys aren’t going to be used to the cold weather, and I’ve been training at altitude,” said Rodriguez, who is coached by Damon Martin of Adams State and advised by Peter de la Cerda, who placed second at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2000. “If they’re going to catch me, I’ll make them work for it.” With a second mile of 4:50, the newcomer from Colorado bid Mulvey adieu and put 27 seconds on the 10-man chase pack. It was a lead that grew to as much as 42 seconds mid-race, with Rodriguez working hard on the downhills and taking it easier on the uphills of the rolling course. Meanwhile, his rivals bided their time.
“I was running with Haji,” explained Ndereba in the post-race interview, “and we thought he would come back to us. That’s what usually happens when somebody goes out like that. But he never came back. By 12 miles, I knew we could not catch him.”
Rodriguez wasn’t quite as sure. “This is a topnotch field,” he said. “I was listening for them when I went by the [last] water station.” He heard nothing but the cheering of the crowd. With about 600 meters to go, he finally took a glance over his shoulder to check his lead. What he saw made him pump his arm in satisfaction.
It seems that Boston has another New Kid on the Block.