Sunshine and the stellar performance of an elite underdog marked the historic 30th Anniversary of the New York Mini last Saturday. Asmae Leghzaoui of Morocco tore through the 10K course to set a new World Record of 30:29, and smash the Mini course record by 18 seconds.
With a previous personal best of 31:16, Leghzaoui's presence at the starting line was overshadowed by 10K champions like American Deena Drossin and Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia. But Leghzaoui, just 25 years old, immediately joined the lead pack of Sonia O'Sullivan, Lornah Kiplagat, and Drossin to fly through the first and second mile in 4:51 each.
Nearing the 1.5 mile mark, Drossin fell back from the pack, and a half-mile later O'Sullivan slipped 10 meters to third place. Leghzaoui and Kiplagat sped through the 5K mark alone in 15:06, and at the incline of the fourth mile, Leghzaoui took a two-stride lead that the Moroccan never relinquished.
Kiplagat gave up only a few more meters between herself and Leghzaoui to finish in 30:44, also breaking Paula Radcliffe's 2001 Mini course record by three seconds, and her own personal best time by 8 seconds. Previously, Kiplagat held the title for third fastest 10K of all time, which she ran in 30:52; now she holds the Kenyan record 10K time.
Only the top two contenders broke the 31-minute mark. Ireland's powerhouse Sonia O'Sullivan clocked in at an impressive 31:22 for third place, thirty seconds off her personal best (30:53). O'Sullivan reigned as the number one 10K runner in the world in 1998.
Olivera Jevtic of Yugoslavia (first place in this year's International Cross Country Race) finished fourth in 31:42, barely inching out Ejagayou Dibaba of Ethiopia, just 20 years old, who finished fifth in 31:44 for a personal best.
Drossin finished a disappointing sixth, in 32:08. After setting the 10K American record this year in 30:32 and chalking up a series of first and second place finishes, Drossin was a race favorite. Today, though, she finished just ahead of American Jennifer Rhines, who took seventh place in 32:19. Eyerusalem Kuma of Ethiopia finished eighth in 32:22 and Ludmilla Petrova of Russia finished ninth in 32:30. In last year's Mini, Petrova ran a 32:35 to finish fifth, and in 2000 she stole the gold at the NYC Marathon (2:25:45). Mexican Adriana Fernandez rounded out the top ten in 32:32.
A total of 4,754 women took part in this year's landmark New York Mini, among them founders Nina Kuscsik and Katherine Switzer, who conceived the Mini back when women weren't officially recognized in most road races. In 1972, the inaugural race took place with less than 100 runners.
The distracted smiles of top women waiting for the race to start. Left to right: Olivera Jevtic, Deena Drossin, Jane Ngotho, Derartu Tulu, Ludmilla Petrova.
More top women ready to start the race. Left to right: Derartu Tulu, Ludmilla Petrova, Beata Rakonczai, Adriana Fernandez, and soon to be World Record holder Asmae Leghzaoui.
The top three runners on the podium. From left to right: Kiplagat in 2nd, Leghzaoui in 1st, and O'Sullivan in 3rd.
Catherine Switzer and Nina Kuscsik, who founded the Mini more then 25 years ago, posed for the press before joining the other runners.