|The Ottawa Race Week kicked off Saturday May 26, 2012. Over ten thosand runners take part in the 10km race Saturday. Geoffrey Mutai from Wezep Kenya wins the Mens 10k race with a time of 27:41. (QMI Agency/Tony Caldwell)
OTTAWA - You wouldn’t know it by the beaming smile and the Kenyan flag he had draped around his shoulders, but, with sweat dripping off his face, Geoffrey Mutai couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed.
Through much of Saturday night’s 10K race during the Tamarack Homes National Capital Race Weekend, the 30-year-old was on pace to break the event record of 27:24, set in 2009 by Deriba Merga.
But he got lonely at the front of the pack, needing somebody to run against. With thousands cheering him on along the race route, he still kicked in at 27:41.4, 44 or so seconds ahead of Morocco’s Mohamed Elhachmi. Kenya’s Simon Ndirangu was third in 28:37.3.
“After going and going alone, I lost some speed,” said Mutai, who has won both the New York and Boston Marathons. “I was not able to continue with the pace because I didn’t have someone to push me.
“To start alone and maintain the pace, it’s not easy when you’re alone.”
Guelph’s Eric Gillis, who will run the marathon for Canada at the Summer Olympics, placed 10th. Gatineau’s Maxime Leboeuf was 15th (23:11.8) and Ottawa’s Laurence Abbott was 17th (32:28.2).
American Lindsey Scherf won the women’s 10K, in 33:12.8, 23.7 seconds ahead of Ethiopia’s Alemitu Abera. Ethiopia’s Alemtsehay Misganaw was third in 33:39.3. Sault Ste. Marie’s Rhiannon Johns was the top Canadian, finishing sixth in 34:45.1.
“I didn’t come in expecting to win, but I went out and took a risk,” said Scherf. “I know a lot of these ladies are fit and fast. I went out hard the first 2K, thinking then I could settle back into my own pace. And I was fortunate they went with me. If they didn’t, I would have been the one in trouble.”
And even when she started to feel the effects of the race, there was another factor helping her push ahead.
“I was tired, but all I could hear was the cheering. When you hear that crowd, it distracts you from the pain and rechannels your focus.
Johns had a push as well. Her aunt and uncle, Beth and Alan Johns were at the 6K mark, holding up a “Go Rhi” sign and cheering on the 21-year-old University of Alabama-Birmingham runner.
“It feels great,” said Johns. “To have my aunt and uncle ... and thousands cheering us along the whole way. I hadn’t run a 10K road race before. I ran the course (Friday). I just went out pretty conservative.”