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Thompson, Hall Dash To 5K Victory

Thousands comes out for first NYRR Dash To The Finish Line 5K.

Thousands comes out for first NYRR Dash To The Finish Line 5K.

Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Sara Hall ran the fastest road 5K ever in New York City on Saturday. Photo: Jane Monti/Race Results Weekly

NEW YORK, NY — The inaugural NYRR Dash to the Finish 5K saw two sprint finishes in Central Park, as Briton Chris Thompson and American Sara Hall broke away on West Drive en route to crossing the famous ING New York City Marathon finish line first.  The competition, which featured more then a dozen Olympic Games hopefuls, served as an appetizer for Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon. With a chilling wind and temperatures just above freezing, breath was visible as the 5,050 runners left the start adjacent to the United Nations on First Avenue.

Video: Sara Hall, Women’s Winner

Taking to the front from the gun in the men’s race was American Dathan Ritzenhein, racing for the first time in twelve months following multiple injuries and a surgery to his right Achilles tendon. Leading a group of fifteen men by Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street, the two-time Olympian, clad in white arm warmers to fend off the cold, seemed focused on making a mark in his long awaited return.

Video: Chris Thompson, Men’s Winner

Hitting the mile in 4:34 with the lead pack still tight, Ritzenhein was joined at the front by Thompson, as well as Americans Matt Tegenkamp, Lopez Lomong, Aaron Braun and Christian Hesch.

Turning north on Avenue of the Americas under the glowing red lights of Radio City Music Hall, Ritzenhein was focused on creating a gap on the chasing men. One by one the pack dwindled down as they turned right on Central Park South, but tucked in were Braun and Thompson, holding steady and waiting to make their move.

With the traditional blue painted line of the ING New York City Marathon course beneath them, Braun pulled even with Ritzenhein at two miles in Central Park, only to fall in behind moments later. By 800m to go, Braun had edged his way back up to the 28-year-old’s shoulder, this time to stay for good.

As the uphill finish drew into sight, Braun was pulling away. Taking a glance to his right, the Team USA Arizona member thought he had the win. But on his left, charging hard was Thompson, the Eugene, Ore.-based athlete training under Mark Rowland for the Oregon Track Club Elite. Despite the public address announcer mistakenly proclaiming Braun the winner, Thompson was first to cross the line in 13:53, the fastest-ever 5K run in New York City.  Braun was second in the same time, while Ritzenhein finished three seconds back in 13:56.

“I have been coming in second a lot, to especially win was pretty incredible,” said Thompson, 30, who will be riding in a lead vehicle for tomorrow’s marathon. “To be honest, I spent the whole race just hanging in. When I actually managed to get to the front, I was a bit shocked. I was just glad the finish line was there when I did it.”

Thompson wasn’t exactly coming in thinking he could win here. “I mean, I was running, and I could see in the four shadows when I was running next to Dathan, I was thinking there is so much class in those shadows. I just don’t want to look. I don’t want to look. So there was a little bit of running scared.”

Rounding out the top five was Brandon Bethke and Andrew Bumbalough, in 13:59 and 14:00, respectively.

The women’s race began the same way as the men’s, with a large pack established behind Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor. Leading through the mile in 5:15, Kastor was joined by recent Pan American Games steeplechase champion Sara Hall, New York/New Jersey Track Club’s Julie Culley, and IAAF World Championship 10,000m silver medalist Sally Kipyego.

With the wind and cold making their effort feel much harder than the clock indicated, the group was kept in check by Culley, who grew up in nearby New Jersey. Excited to be running close to home, Culley pushed the pace, something the 30-year-old doesn’t do often.

The race wouldn’t be decided until the final 250 meters, when Hall, 28, broke away. Crossing in 15:56, Hall capped off 2011 the way it began, with a win in the Big Apple; in January, she won the Millrose Games 1500m at Madison Square Garden in 4:15.35.  Her time was also a New York City record.

“I love racing here, I’ve had a lot of good experiences,” said Hall, whose husband Ryan is the USA half-marathon record holder. “I couldn’t wait to come to this finish line. I knew it probably wouldn’t be quite as packed and loud as marathon day, so I’ll save that full experience for one day in the future. But I got a little taste of it this morning which was really fun.”

Culley and Kipyego, who will also observe tomorrow’s marathon from a lead vehicle, finished second and third, respectively, in 16:00 and 16:03.  Magdalena Lewy Boulet was fourth (16:05) and Meghan Peyton fifth (16:06).