Desisa, Smith Claim B.A.A. Half-Marathon Titles
by Chris Lotsbom
(c) Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (13-Oct) -- Lelisa Desisa and Kim Smith prevailed victorious here at
the 13th running of the B.A.A. Half Marathon, both setting new course
records in the process. New Zealand's Smith also won the B.A.A. Distance
Medley and its $100,000 prize, as did Kenya's Stephen Sambu on the men's
BOSTON MARATHON CHAMPION DESISA RETURNS TO SET COURSE RECORD
Lelisa Desisa has found a home in Boston. In April, the Ethiopian
23-year-old won the 117th Boston Marathon, then returned two months later to
place second at the B.A.A. 10-K. Here today, Desisa claimed yet another
victory in the Massachusetts capital city, setting a new course record of
1:00:34 to win the B.A.A. Half Marathon.
"When I win I am happy," said the quiet Desisa. "I like Boston. I like the
people of Boston. And I am one of the people of Boston."
Desisa used his adoration for the city --and the support shown from its
citizens-- to win the 13.1-mile contest through the Jamaica Plain and
Coming into the race, Desisa --the only man entered to have run under 60:00
for the half-marathon-- was battling a head cold. He wouldn't let any
illness get in between him and the $6,000 first place prize, though.
Sticking with a large lead group through the opening miles, Desisa was
building up as much energy as he could for the race's final stretch. At ten
miles --hit in 46:04-- he was right where he wanted to be: among a pack.
Joining him were Kenyans Daniel Salel, Stephen Sambu, Sam Chelanga, and
Lanni Rutto. Notably missing was Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam, who stopped
between miles six and seven.
"The three or four guys from Kenya are very fast so I follow them. Then
after ten miles I ran to win and ran as fast as possible," he said.
Though Desisa was increasing his pace, he couldn't quite shake Kenyans Salel
For Salel and Sambu, more than just the B.A.A. Half Marathon title was on
the line. Both were in contention for the three-race B.A.A. Distance Medley
crown and it's $100,000 prize, the largest non-marathon award in road
Entering today's contest, Sambu held a 26 second advantage on reigning
B.A.A. Half Marathon champion Allan Kiprono, and a 32 second cushion on
Salel. One male and one female with the lowest cumulative time between
April's B.A.A. 5-K, June's B.A.A. 10-K, and today's B.A.A. Half Marathon
would earn the $100,000 check.
Time to worry about prize money would come after the race's conclusion,
Running through the Franklin Park Zoo with roughly a mile remaining, Desisa
managed to pull away from both Kenyans. Crossing the finish in 1:00:34,
Desisa had broken the previous course record by a whopping minute and ten
All Desisa could do was emphasize his love of Boston following the win.
"I see when I won Boston Marathon in 2013 that they give me support," he
said. "I am happy when I see the people of Boston."
Will Desisa return to Boston for next April's Marathon? Count on it.
"I will come back to Boston. I win, and will do more training to do Boston
again," he said. "I will come again."
Salel, second, and Sambu, third, were given the same finish time of 1:00:41.
Place didn't matter to Sambu, though. All he cared about was the Medley
standings, which he clinched with ease.
"When I entered the stadium I knew I was going to win," said Sambu, who
trains with Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Bernard Lagat under coach James Li
in Arizona. "When I was over there I knew I was going to win so I was very
With the $100,000, Sambu plans to build a water filtration and purification
system at home in Eldoret, Kenya.
"I am so happy because now I am going to Kenya and bring clean water, give
back," said the recent graduate of the University of Arizona.
Rounding out the top five were Chelanga (fourth, 1:01:04) and Rutto (fifth,
1:01:32). Sixth went to last year's champion in Allan Kiprono, while Jeffrey
Eggleston crossed as the top American, seventh in 1:03:41.
"I was in really good shape coming into the race, getting ready for the ING
New York City Marathon," he said. "It's a pretty good day, a great tune up
heading into New York City."
Aaron Braun placed ninth, and gave props to the top finishers.
"Running 61 low or 60-high, 60-mid here is like running 59-flat on a fast
course," he said, noting how hilly and challenging the course is. "I didn't
expect it to be that fast."
SMITH DEFENDS BOTH B.A.A. HALF MARATHON AND DISTANCE MEDLEY CROWNS
For the second consecutive year, Olympian Smith asserted her dominance at
the B.A.A. Half Marathon, claiming victory in a course record time of
1:09:14. The 31-year-old resident of Providence, R.I., led from start to
finish, going on to successfully defend not only her race title, but also
the B.A.A. Distance Medley crown.
With her win, Smith becomes only the second women's champion in race history
to win the B.A.A. Half Marathon two years in a row.
"It's really cool!" Smith said moments after breaking the finish tape.
"Living in Providence and coming up here to race was an easy choice... It's
Shortly after leaving the start in Boston's Franklin Park, Smith found
herself out front with Ethiopia's Aheza Kiros and Kenya's Alice Kimutai
tagging alongside. The three would pass five kilometers in 15:52, then five
miles in 25:39.
Running in her first race since June's B.A.A. 10-K, Smith came into today's
event holding a one minute, eleven second advantage in the B.A.A. Distance
Medley standings. Knowing she would have to push the pace for her chance at
the $100,000 grand prize, Smith kept her foot on the gas pedal, leading
every step of the early miles.
"I just tried to set a pretty decent pace and drop them," Smith said. "The
first 10-K was pretty fast."
Together through 10 kilometers in 31:48.7, it appeared Smith and Kiros would
race neck-and-neck through the final half of the contest. But moments before
reaching the seven mile mark, Smith put any thoughts of a duel to rest.
Pumping her arms ferociously, the three-time Olympian eased away from Kiros.
A five second lead soon became ten seconds, then 34 seconds at the nine mile
"Once they dropped off I knew they must be tired, and I felt pretty good at
that stage. I thought 'I think I got it,'" Smith said.
Watching from the lead vehicle, Smith's manager Ray Flynn noted that Smith
was well under her pace from a year ago, when she won in 1:10:57.
"That's gone," said Flynn, speaking of Caroline Rotich's course record time:
Smith wound up being one minute and 38 seconds ahead of Rotich's mark,
breaking the tape with 1:09:14 reading on the clock. Though she easily
secured the course record, Smith said it was never on her mind.
"I knew I was running pretty fast going through 10-K. I didn't really worry
about course records. I just wanted to win," she said. "I was just running
and felt pretty good."
Defending her race title and picking up the B.A.A. Distance Medley victory
was a thrill, Smith added.
Behind Smith, Kiros would finish second in 1:10:03, with Kimutai third in
1:10:37. Kristen Fryburg-Zaitz was the top American in fourth, timing
"It's always great when you can be the first American," said Fryburg-Zaitz.
"I'm thrilled to be at this race and be here for Boston. With what happened
in April, this is just a great opportunity to prove how strong American
distance runners are."