By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
MANCHESTER, CT (24-Nov) — While their respective track seasons did not get them to the Rio Olympics, both Ben True and Emily Sisson continued to command respect on the roads this year, winning today’s 80th Manchester Road Race with style. On a very cold and cloudy New England Thanksgiving Day, True won here for the second time in a nail-biting sprint finish over Olympian Leonard Korir, while Sisson got her first Manchester win by a comfortable margin. Both athletes earned $4000 in prize money.
TRUE LOSES PRIME BUT WINS WHEN IT COUNTS
True, 30, beat one of the best men’s fields ever assembled here, which included 2016 Olympic medalists Galen Rupp and Paul Chelimo. Rupp, who finished third in the Rio Olympic Marathon in only his second attempt at the distance, was the first key athlete to fall out of contention today, dropping back in just the second mile of the 4.748 mile (7.7 km) race.
Wearing a fabric facemask to warm the near-freezing Connecticut air, Rupp –who suffers from asthma– was trying to avoid an attack. He was with the main group of contenders through the first mile (4:31), but suddenly lost contact as the field began the long climb up Highland Street to the two mile-mark. He simply couldn’t breathe.
“He had an episode today,” said Rupp’s longtime coach Alberto Salazar in a brief telephone interview with Race Results Weekly after the race. “He took precautions, staying inside and wearing the mask, but cold dry air is the worst.”
As Rupp fell off the pace (he would finish tenth), True and Chelimo began an impromptu battle for the $1000 prime at the two-mile mark, dubbed ‘King of the Hill’ by race organizers. In a very physical battle, Chelimo muscled himself ahead of True to pick up the check, using his left shoulder and arm in his final lean to the blue stripe painted on the roadway.
“There was a little shoving which I wasn’t very fond of,” True said of the intermediate sprint. “I figured I was leading the whole hill, and might as well go for that as well.”
The sprint at two miles morphed into a breakaway for True, 2012 Manchester champion Aaron Braun, and Korir as the leaders turned left on Porter Street for the big downhill back to the center of town. Chelimo was a few steps back with British Olympian Chris Thompson, as was local favorite, Donn Cabral, who grew up in nearby Glastonbury.
The third mile went into the books at 4:25 with Korir, True, Thompson, Chelimo and Braun all still in contention. Cabral, who fell back, would finish sixth. As the course flattened out, Thompson saw a chance to break the race open, throwing in a surge, after managing the big climb and downhill.
“I spoke to my coach last night, and we just went, there’s so much we’re going to have to think on our feet with,” Thompson told Race Results Weekly. “Every time there was a hill my body responded because I’m getting fit.”
The surge came at the right time for True and Korir who matched Thompson’s move, then left the Englishman behind as they made the final turn on to Main Street into the finish stretch. True wasn’t sure about Korir’s leg speed, so he decided to wait figuring he could take him in the final, uphill sprint.
“It was all about judging that long straightaway,” True recounted. “I just tried to be as patient as I could be. I think he was trying to do the same thing.” He continued: “I’m surprised he came back at me so hard at the end.”
Thompson fell back to third, and True and Korir duked it out right to the line, with True on the left and Korir on the right. Both men were given the same time: 21:31. True was ecstatic.
“It’s great, you know?” said True, his long brown hair hanging into his eyes. “I took quite a bit of time off and just started coming back again. I’m just trying to use this as the starting point for next year, and kind of forget all about last year and look to the future.”
Thompson was timed in 21:35, followed by Chelimo then Scott Fauble, both timed in 21:29. Braun took sixth in 21:41.
SISSON DOMINANT IN WOMEN’S RACE