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The American records for the 5K on the road came crashing down here this morning when Ben True and Molly Huddle won the seventh annual B.A.A. 5K in 13:22 and 14:50, respectively. In exciting sprint finishes on a gorgeous Spring day, they surpassed the previous marks of 13:24 (Marc Davis, 1996) and 14:54 (Deena Kastor, 2002), both set at the Carlsbad 5000 in California.
True, 26, of Hannover, N.H., overcame an international field the Dartmouth College grad called “pretty stacked” at yesterday’s news conference. He ran about four meters adrift of the early leader, Kenya’s Philip Langat, who went through the first mile alone in 4:19. True stayed with Kenya’s Stephen Sambu and Daniel Salel and fellow American Girma Mecheso in the chase pack as the race went on the “out leg” on Commonwealth Avenue.
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Just past the 2K point, Langat drifted back to the chase pack, and True started to work with Sambu to control the race.
“Sambu and I worked really well together from about 2K on,” True said in his post-race interview. “We were really shoulder to shoulder and pushed that whole last mile.”
As the men’s leaders went through Massachusetts Avenue underpass for the second time, the mass participation athletes were running on the other side of the roadway in the opposite direction. True really felt the home team advantage as people were shouting his name.
“It was great being out here,” a smiling True told reporters. “The entire loop of the course my name was being cheered the entire time. I kind of felt bad for Sambu.”
After turning right on Hereford Street, the lead pack went through two miles in 8:44. Mecheso was the first to drop back, setting up a final-mile battle between True and Sambu. The pair made the final left turn onto Charles Street for the final sprint together, and they were neck-and-neck. True was running for the win, but when he saw the finish clock he felt a further jolt to up his tempo.
“Coming around the last corner, he had the inside lane and I had the outside lane,” True recounted. “So he got a nice little jump on me. I was a little afraid I wasn’t going to be able to reel him back in.”
But he did. With about 150 meters to go, True drew even with Sambu and 50 meters from the finish surged into the lead to get the victory. Sambu was timed in 13:23, just one second behind True; Salel got third in 13:27.
Organizers changed the certified loop course from last year and claimed it was slightly faster. True agreed.
“I knew since last year that this course was fast,” explained True. “They said that the course this year was supposed to be a little faster from last year’s. I figured I might be able to run a little faster.”
Huddle, 30, from Providence, R.I., ran a similar race to True’s. She ran most of the race tucked in the pack, but was pushed by Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu and Mamitu Daska as they approached the finish. The African pair finished one and two seconds, respectively, behind the American who said, like last year here, she was primarily concerned with securing the victory.
“Yeah, I was running for the win,” said Huddle who had painted her fingernails the yellow and blue colors of the Boston Athletic Association, the organizers of today’s race. “But when I saw how fast it was through the mile and two-mile, even when I was back in fifth, I knew if I maintained that the record would be really close.”
Huddle showed impressive speed in her final kick, especially since her last race was at more than four times the distance at the NYC Half on March 15, where she ran a personal best 1:08:31. She now holds the American records at both 5000m on the track (14:44.76) and 5K on the road (14:50).
“It was in the very back of my mind,” Huddle said of the record. “I had to go mile-by-mile today. I was feeling a bit rough, but I knew if I was going to win it was going to be from the back like last year. So, I just hoped for the best.”
Huddle and True enjoyed generous paydays here. Each won $7,500 for their victories, plus $5,000 event record bonuses.
Previous American record holder Marc Davis, who works for the Boston Athletic Association, watched today’s race. He was pleased that it was True who got his record, but said that he might reflect on it for a few minutes tonight.
“That’s what scotch is for,” he quipped.
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