This is one of the biggest running events in the country – with upwards of 30,000 runners from around the U.S. and beyond descending on Washington each year to race the 10-mile distance. And this year’s edition – the 29th annual – featured some truly outstanding performances!
On Sun., Oct. 20 three Brazilians, all seasoned marathoners who have run sub-2:12, swept the top three positions in the men’s race, and a quickly improving young American runner shattered the women’s course record by almost 30 seconds in winning the women’s race.
The three Brazilians who swept the podium positions, all of them members of the Brazilian army and working as a team, were Solonei Silva, 31, who won in 48:04, Paolo Paula, 34, who finished second in 48:06, and Frank Caldeira, 30, who was third in 48:08.
“They train to win as a team,” said Lt. Col. Jose Pinheiro, their coach and interpreter, “It is not important to win as an individual.”
Reporter Steve Nearman would later write: “(The Brazilians) came from afar to continue a tradition of competing with the U.S. Army’s best. Since 2007, the Brazilian army has pushed their American counterparts to the max, frequently dominating the top ranks.”
This certainly was one of those years – and what a fast race it produced, as no fewer than seven men ran 49 flat or better! From fourth through seventh, this is how the runners came across the finish line after the Brazilians – Chris Kwiatkowski, 24, Washington, D.C., 48:17; Aron Rono, 30, Medford, Ore., 48:18; Dereje Girma, 29, Columbus, Md., 48:29; and Augustus Maiyo, 30, Colorado Springs, Colo., 49:00.
Whereas the Brazilians came from thousands of miles away to excel in this race, the women’s winner, Kerri Gallagher, 24, of Rosslyn, Va., lives so close to the starting line she could walk to it, but she certainly wasn’t walking after the gun went off!
Running hard from the start and breaking away at two miles, she won the women’s race for the second year in a row, finishing in 54:56. The previous women’s record of 55:25 had been held by Samia Akbar. Gallagher’s time also lowered her 10-mile personal best by a minute and 13 seconds!
Gallagher, a 2011 Fordham graduate, was a mediocre runner in college, but she’s not mediocre anymore. Now coached by former U.S. Olympian Matt Centrowitz, she said after the race Sunday, “I felt much better than last year. I felt more in control. Last year, I was in the lead holding on for dear life.”
Finishing second and third respectively in the women’s race were Elizabeth Maloy, 28, of Washington, D.C. (56:02) and 2012 U.S. Olympian Julie Culley, 32, of Arlington, Va. (56:13).
The Ethiopian tandem of Wayinshet Abebe Hailu, 26, and Tezata Dengersa, 29, who finished first and second the previous weekend in the Atlantic City Marathon, ran the Army 10-Miler as well – and did very well considering. Dengersa finished fourth in 56:37 and Hailu was eighth in 58:01. Both women live in Columbus, Md.
The race was run under cloudless blue skies with temperatures in the upper 40s at the start and rising into the 50s as the race progressed. Understandably, the Brazilians found it rather chilly until they and the temperatures warmed up in the second half of the race.
A lead pack of 12 runners, including the Brazilian trio, passed the halfway mark in 24:11. Over the next few miles the lead group was reduced to five – the three Brazilians, Chris Kwiatkowski and Aron Rono.
The Brazilians had been content to let Rono do much of the early pacesetting. But it was Kwiatkowski, a 2012 University of Oregon graduate and the sixth-place finisher in this race last year, who boldly made a move at eight miles near the end of the seemingly endless 14th Street Bridge.
Kwiatkowski, who’s also coached by Matt Centrowitz, later said, “I had to try to break it open, I had to try to win. I thought my best shot was to run it out of them. Unfortunately, today I blew up.”
The Brazilian trio covered his surge, then slowly pulled away. At nine miles, entering the Pentagon parking lot, Silva took the lead and ran a 4:43 final mile to hold off his countrymen. All three are focusing on the 2016 Olympic marathon in their country.
In the women’s race Gallagher took control at two miles and never looked back!
“Jule (Culley) and I were together for the first two miles,” she explained later, “and then I did something crazy like drop a 5:10 mile (in there) and I don’t know what happened behind me after that. I don’t think it was (Julie’s) best day. She’s training for (the) New York (City Marathon).”
As the race progressed Culley was seemingly in position to finish second and do so easily – if that’s the right word to use. But Elizabeth Maloy began to have her own thoughts about that.
“I saw her but she was far enough ahead (that it seemed I couldn’t catch her),” said Maloy, a 2007 Georgetown graduate who was a finalist in the women’s 5000 meters at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and recently got back into training. “I saw her with four miles to go, then with two miles to go I thought I’d get her.”
That’s exactly what she did, passing Culley when there were only 400 meters left.
“Oh, I felt kinda bad (passing Culley so close to the end),” she said afterwards, giving credit to current Georgetown distance runner Kirsten Kasper for helping pace her through the body of the race. Kasper would wind up finishing fifth in 57:05.
The Army 10-Miler is America’s second largest and the world’s third largest 10-mile race based on the number of finishers. The Army also had 19 other locations around the world hosting so-called 10-mile shadow runs in conjunction with the Washington 10-Miler -- and more than 8500 runners competed in those (there were 35,000 participants in Washington). Those locations included Afghanistan, Cuba, Kuwait, Kosovo, Pakistan and South Korea.
While you don’t actually have to be in the military to compete in the Army 10-Miler, race organizers say 63 percent of the competitors fall into the following categories: active duty, reserve, guard, retired military, veterans, military family dependants and Department of Defense employees; hence the Army 10-Miler has come to be known as “the most patriotic race in America.”
This year’s Army 10-Miler was conducted under extremely heavy security, this being the post-Boston Marathon bombing era. And the race almost wasn’t held on its usual course at all due to the federal government shutdown. The shutdown affected the National Parks Service, which has jurisdiction over large parts of the course. Fortunately the government was re-opened just in the nick for the race to be run on its regular course, rather than on a less desirable backup course that had also been laid out.