Edward Cheserek was many insiders’ pick to be a first-time winner of the Manchester Road Race on a freezing morning in New England earlier today; but defending champion, Olympic 5000 meters silver medallist Paul Chelimo felt confident enough to sprint away from the pack towards the top of Highland Road hill, around mile two, in order to win the $1000 spot prize. But that surge proved his undoing. He was a stride ahead of Cheserek at that point, but the 24 year old former college phenom kept the surge going, swept away from Chelimo and everyone else to such a degree that he won by the length of the finishing street, and cracked a course record that had stood for 23 years. ‘Ches’ may have missed the thousand bucks bonus for King of the Hill, but came away with $7000 for the win, plus $2000 for his time of 21min 16sec, taking three seconds off Philemon Hanneck’s time from 1995, a mark equalled by Aaron Brown in 2012.
It was a happy Thanksgiving for the organisers who had beefed up the prize money by nearly 50%, and they got another bonus when the women’s race came down to wire, with 2016 winner, Providence collegian Emily Sisson doing all the hard work (and taking the Queen of the Hill bonus), only to be upstaged in the last 100 metres by 19 year old revelation Celliphine Chespol, in her first road race, who won in 24.33, closely followed by last year’s winner, Buze Diriba, with Sisson third.
It was a gorgeous New England morning, the only downside being that, at the 10am start, it was 14F (-10C), with a wind-chill down to zero. Best indication of that was Chespol, wearing a windcheater (albeit lightweight) under her running outfit, along with tights and thick gloves.
There was a brief delay at the start, the theory being that automatic ‘gun’ was frozen. A good ole starting pistol was produced, and off they went. Chelimo and ‘Ches’ showed right from the start, closely tracked by Andy Butchart and Hilary Bor, and a posse of around 15 hangers-on, who began to fall away as the flat first mile gradually turned into the second, uphill mile. As the pack approached the top of Highland Road, Chelimo put on his spurt, and signalled his demise.
The unusual 4.748 mile (almost 7.5k) loop might seem to have favoured Olympic 5000 metres silver medallist, Chelimo, rather than the world’s second fastest indoor miler (3.49.44), but Cheserek won 17 races at multiple distances during his college career, and warmed up (so to speak) by winning a desert mile in Las Vegas ten days ago. From Vegas heat to Connecticut cold made no difference to the 24 year old Kenyan, who is waiting on his US citizenship. In the last two and a half miles, he took almost 30 seconds out of Chelimo, who just held on to second in 21.44, one second ahead of the aggressive Butchart and Kirubel Erassa.
There was a certain inevitability about Sisson’s failure to stay ahead of the East Africans, despite having led for most of the race. The same thing had happened to Sisson’s training partner, Molly Huddle when she was outpaced in the final straight by Diriba last year. But this time, the newcomer, Chespol took the initiative first, and stayed ahead of Diriba.
Chespol should be known as the Cinderella of the Steeplechase, after her extraordinary win at Prefontaine earlier this year. In the penultimate water-jump, her shoe detached, and she stopped for several seconds to pull it back on, before setting off in pursuit of her world class rivals. Not only did the former world youth and junior champion catch her peers, she outsprinted them, to win in 8.58.78, the second fastest in history.
Thus both today’s winners share the kudos of being second best in the world at their favorite event; but given their career ascent so far, and the manner of their victories in Manchester, it’s not just a suggestion that an even more golden future awaits them. Barring accidents, it looks inevitable.
1 Edward Cheserek 21:16
2 Paul Chelimo 21:44
3 Andy Butchart 21:45
4 Kirubel Erassa 21:45
5 Eric Jenkins 21:46
6 Biya Simbassa 21:49
7 Mohamed Hrezi 21:52
8 Hillary Bor 22:03
9 Jacob Thomson 22:04
10 Colin Bennie 22:09
1 Celliphine Chespol 24:33
2 Buze Diriba 24:34
3 Emily Sisson 24:36
4 Monicah Ngige 25:02
5 Elaina Tabb 25:08
6 Sarah Pagano 25:09
7 Emily Durgin 25:10
8 Erika Kemp 25:11
9 Jess Tonn 25:29
10 Karolina Nadolska 25:45
Brilliant reporting on a great race!
thanks, Rick; those kids are the real deal!