By Chris Lotsbom, @chrislotsbom
BOSTON (09-Oct) -- Experience proved to make the difference here at the rain-soaked 16th edition of the B.A.A. Half-Marathon, presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Kenyans Daniel Salel and Mary Wacera pushed through relentless rainfall and blustery winds to claim victory, defending their titles in 1:03:13 and 1:10:19, respectively. Both Salel and Wacera came to Boston eyeing a second straight win, and got the job done with convincing moves.
Daniel Salel - Photo-BAA.org
Salel was part of an eight-man pack through the five kilometer mark, hit in 14:42. With a harsh rain falling and wind blowing across iconic Jamaica Pond, no one wanted to take a risk and make a bid for the lead. Salel, Abraham Kipyatich (Kenya), Tsegay Tuemay (Eritrea), and Eliud Ngetich (Kenya) were among the leaders to slowly pull away in the subsequent miles, creating a quartet that would cover the raceís middle miles as one. Japanís Akihiko Tsumurai did his best to stay with the group going by the picturesque Arnold Arboretum.
Using his knowledge of the rolling course to his advantage, Salel ran in the midst of the pack conserving energy through the later kilometers. Aware of the looming hills and quick straightaway through Franklin Park Zoo, Salel moved up and knew the race would come down to the final two miles.
"I planned that maybe after the last mile [marker] I would try to surge and destroy the guys so I picked it up around the corner and pushed around there. I tried to go!" Salel explained. ďI was comfortable because I knew exactly where I had to go and move. In the last mile I tried to move and go, I planned that. I knew I could destroy the guys there."
Motivated to take home the $10,000 top prize and extend his B.A.A. Half-Marathon winning streak, Salel entered the Zoo with three runners by his side. Exiting the Zoo roughly a half mile later only one runner, Kipyatich, was able to match Salel's pace.
Salel surged again in the final kilometer and created an insurmountable lead. He entered White Stadium in full sprint before breaking the tape in 1:03:13, a bright smile across his face. Kipyatich claimed second in 1:03:22, followed by Tuemay in 1:03:29. Ngetich (1:03:31) and Tsumurai (1:03:39) rounded out the top-five.
"I am very happy, very happy!" Salel proclaimed after becoming the second man in race history to win two straight titles. "The weather was a lot of rain and it made it a bit tougher. We try to stick to our plan and run a good time, but I am very happy because I won and defend my championship."
Salel said the win was extra meaningful because of the support he received from fellow runners and spectators on the course. After the turn-around point near five miles, Salel got a boost of adrenaline with runners going the opposite way waving and shouting his name.
"Maybe in the future when I run the marathon I will just run in Boston because I really like Boston. It's like my second home. I am happy here. Maybe in the future I will look for an apartment here! I am so happy here," Salel gushed. "The people of Boston are very nice and support me."
B.A.A. 10-K winner Daniel Chebii finished eighth in 1:05:26. The top American was Patrick Geoghegan of Portland, Ore., placing tenth in 1:07:39.
In the womenís race, Wacera took off from contenders Diane Nukuri (Burundi) and Valentine Kibet (Kenya) after the 8 km mark and never looked back. Determined to retain her title, Wacera kept her foot on the gas pedal and began chasing the men racing ahead of her.
Wacera happened to run stride for stride with Team B.A.A.ís Chris Allen, passing Olmsted Park and Jamaica Pond on their way through 10-K in 32:45.
"I didn't want to run alone so I saw this guy and wanted to run with him so he could help me," Wacera said with a smile. "He really helped me and I thank him for that."
Though Nukuri and Kibet did their best to chip away at the gap Wacera had created, her pace was simply too quick to match. Despite the inclement conditions, Wacera held a pace that was slightly faster than her 2015 winning tempo; a year ago she won in 1:10:21 under perfect conditions. Comfortable with running out front, Wacera said she was confident controlling the race from the pole position.
Making her way into White Stadium, Wacera took a moment to celebrate with the rain-soaked crowd, waving after breaking the tape in 1:10:19. Nukuri, who incorporated this race into her preparations for the TCS New York City Marathon, would finish less than a minute behind in 1:10:52.
"The rain, the weather, I am happy to win today. To run a better time than last year is really good and amazing. The weather was very tough, it was raining the whole way on the course and I was running alone so it kind of hurt, but I am very happy!" said Wacera. "It's very special for me to come and defend my title."
Like Salel, Wacera gave credit to those along the course for the endless encouragement. On a day when rain increased in intensity as the race went on, the cheers of runners and spectators kept the Kenyan native going.
"I knew I could win. Coming here I had done my training well, I was in good form and I believed in myself. I knew I could do it because I knew the course," she said. "I have been coming and winning here, coming and winning, and I will come and win... I wish to do the marathon someday. I don't know when but I will someday."
Third place went to Kibet in 1:14:42, with Team B.A.A. member Heather Cappello finishing fourth as the top American in 1:15:53.
In total, 6363 athletes started the race. In the field were nearly 500 runners representing Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds to improve patient care and research at Dana-Farber. The B.A.A. Half-Marathon has been presented annually by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund since 2003. Over the past 13 years, Dana-Farber runners have raised more than $5 million USD through the B.A.A. Half Marathon.