The 2012 Olympic silver medalist at 5000 meters, Dejen Gebremeskel won the mile last year in Boston. This year, this fine athlete, with a PB of 12:46.81, battled Ben True for the BAA 5k title.
Last Thursday morning, I came upon Dejen walking down Boylston, heading to hit hotel. We exchanged pleasantries, and I wondered, How can such a nice guy be such a beast racing? Enjoy the story from James O’Brien, on Dejen’s victory at the BAA 5k!
James O’Brien wrote this piece for the Boston Athletic Association. RunBlogRun uses this piece courtesy of the Boston Athletic Association.
Gebremeskel Prevails Through Cold and Windy Conditions to Capture 2016 B.A.A. 5K Crown
By James O’Brien
Chilly temperatures in the mid-40s and blustery winds greeted the thousands of runners gathered on Boston Common to contest the eighth annual B.A.A. 5K. Twelve months previously, Ben True had scorched to a national record-setting 13:22 victory. True was back this year, though hampered by a hip injury that had forced him to skip March’s NYC Half and take two full weeks off from running.
“It didn’t feel good while I was warming up,” commented the defending champion.
Intending to make this all the more challenging for the New Hampshire resident – who is married to Rio de Janeiro Olympic triathlete Sarah True – were Dejen Gebremeskel from Ethiopia, the winner here in 2013 and 2014; Stephen Sambu and Philip Langat from Kenya, both experienced competitors on this course; and a handful of hardened US road racers, including Diego Estrada, Joe Stilin, and Tim Ritchie. With $39,900 in prize money on the line, it was never going to be easy.
At the stroke of 8:00 a.m., the field bolted away from the starting line under bright sunny skies. As expected, the opening circuit of Boston Common saw a cumbersome lead pack jostling and elbowing for position. As the leaders made the left turn onto Commonwealth Avenue, everybody who was supposed to be in contention was at the front, with True, Sambu, Gebremeskel, Philip Langat (KEN), Estrada, Kennedy Kithuka (KEN), Stilin, Ritchie – the whole gang- all there and rolling hard.
The tailwind along Comm. Ave encouraged the leaders through an opening mile of 4:25, with True, Sambu, Langat, Gebremeskel and Estrada fronting a pack that, by that point, had been pruned to nine. Gebremeskel, the Olympic 5000m silver medalist from 2012, appeared intent on keeping the pace honest, but he was going nowhere that the world class pack in his wake wasn’t going, too.
At Charlesgate West, the course took a U-turn, bringing the field back along the opposite side of Commonwealth Avenue and converting a helpful tailwind into a troublesome headwind. “It was SO windy,” commented Sambu after the race.
Even so, the leaders stayed bunched; Ritchie, Stilin and a handful of others appearing to weaken as True, Sambu, Langat and Gebremeskel forced the pace. Estrada also continued to hang in, looking comfortable and smooth, despite the wind, despite the chill and despite the increasing intensity.
Hammering back along Commonwealth Avenue, the leaders made a right turn onto Hereford Street, greeted quickly by the two mile mark and a split of 8:54 (4:29). True and Sambu fronted the field, with Estrada, Langat, Gebremeskel and Stilin just a half stride in arrears. An almost immediate right turn onto Boyleston Street was the first catalyst for the fireworks to begin. It may be the broad, downhill sweep; or it may be the sight of the fabled Boston Marathon finish line 400 meters or so ahead; or it may simply be that the leaders, at this point, are in the final mile and it’s time to set things straight. Whichever, Sambu became the aggressor, clearly intent on drawing the sting from the kicks of True and Gebremeskel.
“I was feeling good, so I tried to push it,” Sambu commented. “I like running in front. I feel like I’m controlling the pace.”
He was, but it made minimal difference. Though Estrada and Stilin were weakening, True and Gebremeskel were implacable, while Langat was hanging tough. It was with 600 or so meters remaining that the real moves started to unfold. Gebremeskel upped the ante; True worked hard to cover, but Sambu and Langat had little left in the tank. Taking the left hand turn onto Charles Street and the finish line, the Ethiopian star had 10 meters in hand, a margin he maintained as he blasted through the finish line with 13:39 showing on the clock. True followed two seconds later, with Sambu at 13:44 and Langat at 13:54.
“I tried to break the course record,” Gebremeskel explained, “but it was really cold.”
True took comfort in the fact of placing so well despite his interrupted training. “During the race, my hip was OK,” he stated. “I didn’t like losing, it doesn’t matter what the accolades are of the winner.”
Gebremeskel deserves accolades aplenty. Now a three-time winner of this race, plus the B.A.A. Invitational Mile last year, inexplicably, he was overlooked for the Ethiopian team for March’s World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregn. The Rio Olympic Games loom large in his future. “I’ll try the 5000m,” he explained, “and then decide about the 10,000m.”
For their 1-2-3, Gebremeskel, True and Sambu earned $7500, $4000 and $2500 respectively. Interestingly, in 2014 when True was second, Sambu was third. In 2015, when True won, Sambu was second. This year, with True again second, Sambu was, again, the man immediately behind him.
In Boston over Marathon weekend, “tradition” is a word that crops up frequently. With eight editions completed, the B.A.A. 5K appears to have created a tradition of its own: one of world class competition, blistering speed and a returning cast of the world’s finest athletes. That’s a tradition that is all set to continue.
ABOUT THE BOSTON ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (B.A.A.)
Established in 1887, the Boston Athletic Association is a non-profit organization with a mission of promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running. The B.A.A.’s Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and the organization manages other local events and supports comprehensive charity, youth, and year-round running programs. Since 1986, the principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon has been John Hancock Financial. The Boston Marathon is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, along with international marathons in Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City. More than 60,000 runners will participate in B.A.A. events in 2016. The 120th Boston Marathon will be held on Monday, April 18, 2016. For more information on the B.A.A., please visitwww.baa.org.