The 39-year-old finished second at the inaugural event.
PHILADELPHIA — Bernard Lagat is no stranger to going the extra mile at the end of the race. The multiple-American-record holder and double-Olympic medalist is known for his trademark kick, but at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia 5K on Saturday those speedy legs couldn’t turn over fast enough in the final meters. The 39-year-old from Tucson, Arizona had hoped to break the American 5K road record of 13:24, but ended up coming in second, running 13:31 to finish two seconds behind 23-year-old Lawi Lalang of Kenya, who won the inaugural race in 13:29. Leonard Korir of Kenya was third in 14:03.
“That hill was tough,” Lagat said of the final stretch of the race that gradually climbs up to the finish in front of Philadelphia’s iconic Art Museum. “I was hoping to be running faster when I got to it.” Lagat ran with Lalang and Korir for much of the first half of the race. The trio went through the first mile on pace in 4:18 with only a matter of inches between them, but slowed down in the second mile that included a hairpin turn along Philadelphia’s Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. At that point, Korir faded while Lagat and Lalang remained in the hunt for the win.
Lagat, who had just concluded a busy track season in Europe, is the most-decorated 5,000m runner in American championships history. He confided afer the race that he was disappointed with his showing on Saturday morning, but that he’s confident that Marc Davis’ record—which was set at the 1996 edition of the Carlsbad 5000—will eventually be in his possession. “All summer I was thinking about this race. My legs felt great—not tired from the racing on the track—and my training had been going really well in Germany. I thought it [the record] was possible. I just think the course just got the best of me today. But I’ll get that record,” he said with a smile and a nod. Lagat says he’s now going to head back to Tucson to relax with his family and play some golf before he resumes training next year as a Masters runner.
That same persevering attitude was also prevalent in the women’s race when 26-year-old Amanda Stopa broke the tape with a huge smile on her face. Stopa, who got her Masters at Rutgers University in 2013, didn’t expect to win the race and was thrilled to find herself in first place during the opening miles. “I thought there were going to be some ringers out there at the start,” she said. “But I just kept on going. The crowd was great. They pumped me up.” Stopa won the race in 18:33. She currently coaches cross country at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York and didn’t expect to run as quickly as she did. “I haven’t run this fast in a while,” she said with a chuckle. “I’m so happy to win here. It’s like a homecoming.” Stopa maintained a 14-second margin of victory over second-place finisher Emily Moskowitz of Philadelphia. Third place went to Charity Fluharty (18:49) who had found herself in the City of Brotherly Love for a convention and signed up for the race on a whim on Thursday.
Approximately 2,500 runners took part in Saturday’s inaugural race, which kicked off at Eakin’s Oval in picture-perfect conditions with temperatures in the mid 60s and sunny skies. The Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K is the first race of a two-day running festival. Tomorrow, many of the same runners will return to race the half marathon that routes along Philadelphia’s scenic Schuylkill River.