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Ejigu Sets Course Record at Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women

Emily Infeld finished as top American in 31:46, 14 seconds back.

Emily Infeld finished as top American in 31:46, 14 seconds back. 

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

BOSTON — On a picture perfect day with conditions ideal for racing, Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu broke a 25-year-old course record en route to winning the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women on the streets of Boston on Monday. Breaking away shortly before four miles, the 28-year-old ran all alone in front of 5916 other women to a final time of 31:32.9, becoming the race’s first champion from Ethiopia. She won $5,000 in prize money.

“I am very happy for this race. It means a lot for me to come and have my first good performance after two years,” said Global Athletics & Marketing representative Matt McCarron, translating for Ejigu.

After a pedestrian opening mile of 5:11, a lead pack began to form as the women’s only field crossed the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge above the Charles River. Congregating at the front were Ejigu, Americans Janet Bawcom and Emily Infeld, as well as Kenyans Risper Gesabwa and Alice Kamunya.

Still all together at 5 kilometers –hit in 16:03– Ejigu seemed most comfortable of the five leaders, arms pumping and eyes focused on the road ahead.

With the four mile marker in sights, Ejigu injected a surge that shook up the group. Infeld and Gesabwa worked together to counter the move, as Bawcom and Kamunya began to fade off the back.

“I could definitely feel her taking off and I didn’t know if my legs had it in them to go with her,” said Infeld, who trains alongside Massachusetts native Shalane Flanagan under coach Jerry Schumacher in Portland, Ore. “I think it was kind of a shock when she surged like that.”

Crossing back over the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and returning to the city’s Back Bay neighborhood, Ejigu glanced behind only to see Infeld far in the distance, more than ten seconds adrift. In the midst of her second consecutive sub-five minute mile, Ejigu wasn’t quite sure how much racing she had left.

“I felt very comfortable throughout the race,” she said through McCarron. “I kept looking back because I didn’t see kilometer markers, and I don’t know miles very much. I was unsure of my fitness because I haven’t had a good competition after more than a year of injuries.”

Keeping her foot on the gas pedal, Ejigu continued pushing through the finish, timed in 31:32.9. Her time was five seconds faster than Anne Hannam’s 1988 course record mark.

Extremely shy and refusing to speak directly with the media, Global Athletics representative McCarron talked on behalf of Ejigu. He said that Ejigu was very pleased with the performance and was surprised with the course record. As McCarron spoke to Race Results Weekly, Ejigu was on the phone with two-time Olympic champion Meseret Defar, who offered congratulations.

As it turns out, Defar told Global Athletics management that Ejigu appeared extremely fit while training in Ethiopia and urged the athlete management group to enter Ejigu in a race.

“Meseret is thrilled for her,” said McCarron. “They are very good friends and she is very happy for her. This is big for her.”

Behind Ejigu, Infeld placed second in 31:46.6. The 23-year-old Georgetown University graduate was pleased with her time, the fastest 10K on the roads by an American this year.

“Obviously I was wishing for the win, but I mean I have to be happy. I gave all I had out there and I don’t think I could have run that [what Ejigu did] today,” she said.

Third went to Gesabwa (32:11.2), with Bawcom fourth in 32:27.4. Bawcom, who won the event in 2011 when it was still the USA Championship, is coming back from a battle with shin splints and is anxious for next month’s ING New York City Marathon.

“It felt a little quicker than I wanted, but I feel strong,” she said. “I’m getting better every day and I’m excited to get fourth place today. Just to run under 33 [minutes], that was my goal.”

Rounding out the top five was Alice Kamunya in 32:31.6. Two-time champion Katie McGregor wound up 20th in 34:03.5.