Kenya's Allan Kiprono defends Bolder Boulder crown
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- Even on a sweltering day, this race really was no sweat for Allan Kiprono.
The Kenyan felt right at home on the challenging 10-kilometer course as he breezed to his second straight title at the Bolder Boulder on Monday. No surprise he was so comfortable since he moved to the city two months ago for the simple reason of training for the Memorial Day race.
Once inside Folsom Field and nearing the finish line, Kiprono kept glancing over his shoulder, just to see if anyone was closing the gap.
Like he had to worry on a day when Kiprono's blistering pace wilted competitors almost as much as the searing temperatures. Kiprono's strong finish led Kenya to the International Team Challenge title, ending Ethiopia's six-year reign in the race.
"Kiprono showed that there are some courses that like you and you like it," said Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic marathon winner who was on hand to do some commentary for the race. "This is his course. He's very comfortable on it. Once you've run this course a few times, you know there are certain points where if you're feeling fit and good, you know where to make the move."
That's precisely what Kiprono did, too, sprinting away from the field late in the competition and finishing in a time of 29 minutes, 28.79 seconds. His Kenyan teammates weren't far behind in this unique competition, where three runners from each country team up and their combined finishes determine the winner. The 1-4-6 finish by the Kenyan contingent was enough to hold off a strong Ethiopia squad by a single point.
"That's good. For many years, they've been winning this race," Kiprono said. "But it was very tough."
Not that it ever showed on the face of Kiprono, who still looked fresh after crossing the finish line. He quickly doused his head with water before waving to the crowd and taking a seat in the shade.
In the women's race, Merima Mohammed was just as dominant to help Ethiopia retain its title for a fifth straight year. Deena Kastor, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., was the top American finisher in fourth.
"What struck me was Merima was the fittest person in the race," said Shorter, who won the Bolder Boulder in 1981. "Early on, she was the one surging and testing to see how everyone would respond. She kept surging and looking around, then letting everyone come back. Then, she would surge some more, look around, until finally she decided to make her move and break the race open.
"She ran a very smart race."
On a very difficult day for runners, too. The official temperature was 74 degrees and sunny at the start of the race, but it quickly heated up as the race progressed.
"I think the heat definitely had a psychological effect on the race," Shorter said.
Kastor couldn't agree more. She stayed with the lead pack early, before dropping behind. After that, she was on her own, rebounding enough to work her way into another top-five finish. She won this race three straight times, from 2001-03, and finished third last year.
"Tough running conditions," said Kastor, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon. "You're running at altitude - the heat is just an added barrier."
The temperatures exacted a toll in the Citizen's Race, too, with around 130 runners making contact with emergency personnel and 15 being taken to the hospital, including two with cardiac episodes and another after suffering a stroke.
"Heat was certainly a factor," said Dr. Todd Dorfman, the medical director for the race.
The number of entrants at the Bolder Boulder this year fell to 48,741, the lowest total since 2006. One possible reason could be due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April. Bolder Boulder officials said the race had increased security.
"Everywhere there was more of a law enforcement presence," race director Cliff Bosley said. "We had a larger security perimeter."
The race was almost interrupted by a pre-dawn mobile home fire a few blocks over from mile marker No. 1. The Boulder fire department extinguished the blaze, Bosley said.
"There was a big, black plume of smoke this morning, hanging over the area," he said.
The race ever in danger?
"Not so much," Bosley said. "The fire department created a good perimeter so we could bypass that area."
Following wave after wave of early morning runners, the stage was set for Kiprono, who was basically in control the entire way.
"Some people just run well here," Shorter said.
It didn't hurt that Kiprono arrived early, just to get to know the area and the course.
"Everything is to prepare," he said. "Then, you win easy."