Runner's Web
Runner's and Triathlete's Web News
Send To A friend Know someone else who's interested in running and triathlon?
Send this Runner's Web Story's URL to a friend.   Follow us on Twitter   Follow us on Facebook
Visit the FrontPage for the latest news.   |     View in Runner's Web Frame

Subscribe to stories like this

Posted: August 21, 2016:  

(RRW) Athletics: Hot Off Rio Run, Nukuri Excited To Defend Falmouth Road Race Title

From David Monti, @d9monti
© 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved.

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(19-Aug) -- Diane Nukuri has had a whirlwind of an Olympic fortnight. First she walked in the Olympic Opening Ceremony on August 5, sporting a colorful dress as part of Burundi's nine-athlete contingent at the Rio de Janeiro games. A week later she toed the line for the 10,000m on the track, setting a Burundi national record of 31:28.69 to finish 13th in a race that saw Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana shatter the world record.

PHOTO: Diane Nukuri winning the 2015 New Balance Falmouth Road Race (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)

Now, while the competition still roars 4,800 miles away in Rio de Janeiro, Nukuri finds herself on the beautiful coast of Cape Cod, anxious to defend her title at the 44th New Balance Falmouth Road Race. On Sunday, Nukuri will line up seeking to become the first woman since Lornah Kiplagat in 2001/20002 to win back-to-back titles.

"It's been obviously a bit of a crazy two weeks, but in a really good way. A lot of excitement," Nukuri told Race Results Weekly in a phone interview from Cape Cod. "The 10,000m was crazy. I was happy with my race and I think once you see how the race played out and all the people who ran PB's and a world record, it was overwhelming for sure. But it's nice to be back here on the roads and kind of lay back and do what you love to do and not have to worry about how high you place or how fast you run and just kind of mix it up and do what I love to do."

Nukuri has had a long history of doing well here in Massachusetts. At Falmouth, she's finished second in 2011 and fourth in both 2013 and 2014, in addition to her victory last year. Twelve months ago she left the likes of Sara Hall, Sentayehu Ejigu, Neely Spence Gracey, and Amy Cragg in her dust. Nukuri said she always brings a little extra to her game at Falmouth; the welcoming locals and picturesque course helps motivate her to run fast from the start in Woods Hole to the finish in Falmouth Heights.

Considering what the last two weeks have been like for the tall 31-year-old, Nukuri is happy to be back on familiar turf in such a relaxing atmosphere. She is fatigued, but has enough juice in the tank for a hard effort on Sunday. She'll be up against fellow 2016 Olympian and 2014 Falmouth champion Betsy Saina (fifth place in the Olympic 10,000m in 30:07.78 for Kenya), up-and-coming road ace Caroline Chepkoech, New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith and Americans Hall, Spence Gracey, and Aliphine Tuliamuk Bolton. Saina and Nukuri --who've raced many times and become great friends-- laughed about squaring off both in Rio and Falmouth earlier Friday.

"I was joking with her earlier saying that when she lapped me [in Rio], it was probably the highlight of her Olympic Games," Nukuri said with a chuckle. "She ran so fast, I have so much respect for her. We are very competitive, friendly competition. I have yet to beat her and that would be my goal sometime soon, if not Sunday!"

"The whole field is very competitive. With how strong the field is, my goal is to finish strong in the top three, top five. I'll be happy being competitive," she said.

Weather conditions on Sunday call for warm temperatures with a high of 78 degrees. That shouldn't be a problem for Nukuri: last year's race was even hotter, yet Nukuri pushed a consistent pace up front, ultimately breaking the field.

What isn't on Nukuri's mind is the "Countdown" challenge, an exciting twist to the competition here. Once the top woman finishes, a countdown clock will begin clicking down from 4 minutes and 30 seconds. If the lead man does not finish before the clock hits zero, a $5000 bonus will go to the women's winner. If there is still time left on the clock when the men's champion breaks the tape in Falmouth Heights, then he takes home the bonus prize. The elite women get a ten minute head start in front of the men.

A year ago Stephen Sambu finished first with only three seconds remaining on the clock, prying the $5000 from Nukuri's grasp in dramatic fashion. Sambu returns again this year, setting up what could be an enthralling replay of what played out in 2015. Sambu is going for his third consecutive title, something only three people have done in race history: Gilbert Okari, Lornah Kiplagat, and Joan Samuelson.

"Last year was different. This year, the field is so strong and much faster. I will be surprised if the guys win," she said. "But it's something you can't think about until after the race. It's going to be really hard for the guys to get it, but you never know. Hopefully I get it. It's always fun to beat the guys!"

Looking back on the spring and summer as a whole --which included PB's at 5-K (15:34), 10-K (31:49), and 10,000m (31:28.69) and, of course, her third trip to the Olympic Games-- Nukuri couldn't be happier. The memories made have been well worth the thousands of miles in training.

A trip to race in Falmouth is like the cherry on top of what's been an incredible month.

"This race is all about coming together, and everybody is going to be running. The Olympics are great, but there's something very special about these road races we do, especially Falmouth.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't tired. I didn't sleep well last week [in the Olympic village]. But all that changes once you get in the race. You just start and hopefully you feel good. I'm very, very excited to race and to be here again."

Subscribe to the Runner's Web Weekly Digest
Check out our FrontPage for all the latest running and triathlon news.

Top of News
Runner's Web FrontPage