As Yogi Berra might have said it, it was deju vu all over again in Boston on Sunday, Oct. 13 at the B.A.A. Half-Marathon.
The 2013 Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa, 25, of Ethiopia returned to Boston to win the men’s division of this world-class race on a rolling course through Boston’s scenic Emerald Necklace park system in a scintillating time of 1:00:34, a course record. Two Kenyans, Daniel Salel, 22, and Stephan Sambu, 25, were not far behind as they each ran 1:00:41, Salel taking second.
In the women's race Kim Smith, 31, a New Zealand Olympian now living in Providence, R.I., returned to this event she won a year ago and again emerged victorious – also in a course record time, 1:09:14 – with Aheza Kiros, 27, of Ethiopia second in 1:10:03 and Alice Kimutai of Kenya third in 1:10:37.
As a result of their performances in the race, both Smith and Sambu won the 2013 B.A.A. Distance Medley and earned $100,000 apiece. The B.A.A. Distance Medley consisted of the B.A.A. 5K on April 14, the B.A.A. 10K on June 23 and the B.A.A. Half-Marathon on October 13. Smith and Sambu recorded the fastest cumulative times for the three-race series.
Desisa was not eligible for the award since he didn’t run the initial 5K, although he did run and win the 10K. After that race, he presented his winner’s medal to Mayor Thomas M. Menino as a symbol of solidarity with the City of Boston and as a tribute to those injured in the senseless terrorist bombing on April 15.
Following the 10K in the B.A.A. Distance medley, Sambu held a 26-second lead over Daniel Salel – and he wasn’t about to give up any of that margin if he could help it.
In the first half of the race on Sunday, a pack of more than 10 runners were grouped at the front, but by the eight-mile mark it had dwindled down to five – Sambu, Salel, Allan Kiprono, Samuel Chelanga, all Kenyans, and Desisa, the lone Ethiopian. Following a 4:22 ninth mile, Salel and Sambu took the lead and raced shoulder to shoulder.
Desisa made a decisive more in the 11th mile and broke the tape 10 seconds to the good with the cheers of the crowd inside White Stadium ringing in his ears.
Salel and Sambu finished second and third respectively, although they were given the same time.
Afterwards Sambu, who lives and trains in Arizona, was heard discussing plans to use his $100,000 prize money to provide a water purification system for his native village in Kenya where his family still lives. Clearly, in the family of Man, Stephan Sambu stands out as a true hero!
In the women’s race Kim Smith, with at least 100,000 reasons to do well, led from start to finish, although she had company for the first 6½ miles, to shatter her own course record of 1:10:52, set last year, by more than a minute and a half. She had gone into the race with a 1 minute, 11 second lead in the B.A.A. Distance Medley.
Smith, who became only the second woman in history to win the B.A.A. Half-Marathon two years in a row, had her parents from New Zealand and her in-laws from Maine on hand to watch her run – and she didn’t disappoint them.
With Smith pushing the pace, she and the two Africans, Kiros and Kimutai, passed 5K in 15:52 and five miles in 25:39. Smith only had Kiros with her at 10 kilometers, where they were timed in 31:48.7.
Just before the seven-mile mark, Smith put in a surge and pulled away from Kiros. She would stretch her lead right to the finish line, although she said she wasn’t concentrating on setting a course record.
“I knew I was running pretty fast going through 10K,” she said, “But I didn’t really worry about course records. I just wanted to win. I was just running and felt pretty good.”
Behind Smith, Kiros and Kimutai, Kristen Fryburg-Zaitz came across the finish line fourth as the top America with a time of 1:13:12.