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Posted: April 4, 2009  : Add to Mixx!

Athletics: Jon Brown and Lucy Njeri battle elements for convincing wins at 31st Annual Harry's Spring Run Off 8K in High Park

TORONTO. April 4th. Victoria, BCs Jon Brown and Kenyan Lucy Njeri battled cold, blustery conditions as well as the legendary hills of High Park to record convincing victories in the 31st edition of Harry's Spring Run Off 8K this morning. Both led from Start to Finish to break the tape in 24:12 and 29:49, respectively. Chilly temperatures of 2 celcius and west winds gusting to 60 km/hour couldn't deter the champions, nor the sell-out crowd of 2,500 in the 8K, and another sell out field of 2,000 in the 5K that followed. The event signalled "Opening Day for Running" and the start of the 20th Anniversay season of the Canada Running Series in the East.

Brown, the canny veteran who placed 4th in the Olympic marathons in both 2000 and 2004, was the class of the men's field. He had already won Harry's Spring Run Off Vancouver 8K on March 8th, and produced a professional, workmanlike effort to complete the "Harry's double". "This isn't my kind of weather," said Brownie after the race. "It took me a while to get going with the cold and the wind. I'd gone over the course yesterday, and I figured I'd just keep it steady until after we got up that first big hill at 3km." True to the plan, Brown struck after Centre Road hill, and only fellow-Victorian Ryan Mackenzie went with him. By the 5k mark, Brown was on his own and cruising to a comfortable win, by 15 seconds over the Speed River Club's Taylor Milne, who ran a smart race and came through to overhaul a fading Mackenzie, 24:26 to 24:38. Twenty-five year old Spencer Morrison of UTTC was 4th in 24:41 and Kenyan Edward Tabut 5th in 24:47 in a good battle for the places.

On the women's side, the race was never really in doubt, as last year's champion, Lucy Njeri of Kenya, did what she needed to do, then hung on to repeat, despite fading badly towards the end. As well as the tough conditions, she no doubt had a little of last weekend's Around the Bay 30K still in her legs. Her time was a more than a minute and a half slower than in 2008. Forty-one year old Paula Wiltse of Brockville had a strong run for 2nd, in 30:00, to also claim first Masters Women's title. Twenty-one year old Ayesha Rollinson of UTTC was third in 30:26.

The performance of the day, however, perhaps belonged to another great veteran, Steve Boyd of Kingston, who ran hard, as always. Boyd placed 16th overall today in 26:39 to take the Masters crown by more than a minute over Montreal's Tewfik Recoui and Ottawa's Pete Quinn [27:37 & 27:44]. Looking back over the 31 years of the Spring Run Off, Steve Boyd's name and great career have figured prominently in Toronto's oldest road race. In 1992 he was 2nd overall to Irish international John Doherty in 23:47; he was 2nd again in '93 [24:07] to US Olympian Ed Eyestone. He was SRO champion in '97 [24:19] and again in '98 [24:05], where he edged out now-Ontario Minister of Labour Peter Fonseca. In '99, with marvellous consistency, he ran 24:20 to place 4th behind Kenyan legend Sammy Kipketer who blistered a 22:44 that day. In 2000, Steve was champion again. At 45 years old, it was a treat to see Boyd with another tough SRO performance this morning.

Behind the winners, the record 4,500 participants sported lots of smiles, with perhaps the largest ones belonging to Princess Margaret Hospital that took home a cheque for a record $320,000 for prostate cancer research. HSBC Speedsters took the Team title for most money raised, banking over $26,000 for the cause.

Full results at CanadaRunningSeries.com.

The next Canada Running Series event is the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal on April 19th, that also doubles as the Canadian National Half Marathon Championships. Jon Brown will be back to take on the East, where he'll likely face a gentler wind but stiffer competition that will include defending champion Andrew Smith, and Steve Osadiuk. Women's defending champ Tara Quinn-Smith and Lioumila Kortchaguina give promise of a great duel in the women's race. Join the Canadian stars in Parc Jean Drapeau on April 19th. Register TODAY at CanadaRunningSeries.com [the event will sell out again this year!]

Lucy Njeri takes Spring Road Hill
Jon Brown leads Ryan Mackenzie at the 4km mark, with a recovering Danny Kassap looking on


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