PHOTO: Sara Hall wins the 2021 Mastercard New York Mini 10-K in 31:33, the fastest time ever by an American at the event (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly, used with permission)This is the feature by Dave and Jane Monti of Race Results Weekly on the excellent win last weekend, at the Mastercard NY Mini 10-K, by Sara Hall, as she gears up for the U.S. Olympic Trials.Just how good is Sara Hall? I think that she finally is accepting her own talent, and her drive and focus seem better than any time in her career. The steepler via 1,500m, turned 5,000m, then marathoner, now marathon and 10,000m athlete has been a unique evolution.
HALL REPEATS AS MINI 10-K CHAMPION WITH RECORD RUN
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
NEW YORK (12-Jun) — After finishing an ultra-high altitude training camp in Crested Butte, Colo., Sara Hall roared to victory here today in Central Park, clocking the fastest-ever Mastercard New York Mini 10-K by an American woman: 31:33. The 38 year-old mother of four from Flagstaff, Ariz., beat back a strong late-race challenge from Kenya’s Violah Cheptoo –a Olympic 1500m runner with a 4:04.10 personal best– to pocket the $7,500 first place prize. Hall was also the race champion in 2019 the last time the event was held before the pandemic.PHOTO: Monica Ngige, Violah Cheptoo and Sara Hall leading the 2021 Mastercard New York Mini 10-K near the four-mile mark (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly, used with permission).
A ten-time national champion, Hall used today’s race partially as a tune-up for the upcoming USA Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., where she will contest the 10,000m in exactly two weeks. She got a good read on her fitness today.
“I really wanted to work on my close just with the Trials coming up,” Hall told Race Results Weekly. “That’s the one piece I haven’t had in my track races. So, to feel like I did and to finish that well gives me a lot of confidence for the Trials.”
That was particularly true given the difficulty of the special course used for today’s race. New York Road Runners, the race founders and organizers, had to use a modified course within the confines of the Park to meet the city’s COVID-mitigation rules (the race normally starts on Central Park West). That meant there were more hills than usual, and the race had an elevation gain of approximately 11 meters (35 feet). Indeed the first kilometer went straight up a steep grade on the park’s east side known locally as Cat Hill.
“At least you get Cat Hill out of the way early,” quipped Allie Feller, host of the Allie on the Run podcast, who was observing the race from the lead vehicle.
Coming up that hill, Hall was tucked in a 12-strong lead pack which was led by marathoners Emma Bates, Laura Thweatt and Molly Seidel. The first mile passed in a slowish 5:19 before the race continued on the gently rolling section from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Engineer’s Gate. At that point, Hall was just trying to find her tempo.
“This is different than the track,” Hall observed. “The track, at least you can get in a rhythm. Here, you don’t have a single flat section in this course. This is just up or down.”
Bates remained on the front as the lead pack ran north up the park’s east side. The second mile was predictably faster (4:58), before the runners plunged downhill to the s-curves in the park’s north end adjacent to Lasker Pool. When the low point was hit at the northern tip of the course, the park’s worst uphill which loomed ahead would help break up the field. On the climb, Bates stayed in front with Thweatt, Hall, Seidel, Cheptoo, Kenyans Monicah Ngige and Edna Kiplagat, Lindsay Flanagan, and Emily Durgin. Molly Huddle, the 2014 Mini champion, began to drift back (she would finish 11th in 33:07).PHOTO: 2021 Mastercard New York Mini 10-K champions Sara Hall and Susannah Scaroni (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly, used with permission).
After the following downhill, the leaders reached the 5-kilometer point 16:14 with Flanagan on the front. Durgin and Nukuri soon fell back, and Seidel stumbled at a water table just before the four mile (6.44 km) mark which was reached in 20:44. The pace got a little hot for Flanagan, leaving Ngige, Hall and Cheptoo with a clear lead at the 8-kilometer point (25:40).
Cheptoo, a younger sister of Bernard Lagat, was very familiar with Hall and follows her on social media. She knew Hall was fit from social media comments made by 2017 world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn, who trained with Hall in Crested Butte (it’s Coburn’s hometown). After Cheptoo and Hall had dropped Ngige the Kenyan knew she needed to do something soon to shake Hall. She quickly hatched a plan.
“I knew she was in such a great shape watching what Emma Coburn had to say,” Cheptoo said. “I was watching out for her the entire time during this race. And when it came to 200 (meters to go) I knew she has a kick. So, I tried to kill it coming up the hill that way I can drop her a little bit. I think I did it too early. When it come to 200 I didn’t have the turnover.”
Hall dropped Cheptoo on the park’s 72nd Street Transverse which first rises to a high point in the center, falls from the midpoint, then rises gently before the finish. The 32 year-old had to settle for second in 31:39 ($5,500), and Ngige was a clear third in 31:59 ($3,000). Flanagan (32:09/$1,500) and Seidel (32:13/$1,000) rounded out the top five. Hall ran the second half of the race in a quick 15:18.
Hall credited Coburn with helping her adjust her training to Crested Butte’s extreme altitude (2715m/8909ft) and for pushing her in workouts.
“Working out with Emma the last six weeks was exactly what I needed to prepare for the Trials,” Hall explained. “She’s really good at that extreme altitude having grown up there, plus she’s one of the best middle distance runners in the world. You know, I got my butt kicked some days, but just being able to be close to her in those workouts was just what I needed.”
In the wheelchair division, Susannah Scaroni successfully defended her title in 22:44 (in 2019 she pushed to a world best 22:22). She defeated 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden by 38 seconds to win the $2,500 first prize.
For New York Road Runners, today’s event was their first elite road race in 19 months. A field of about 3,000 recreational runners followed the elites making the race their largest since the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon.
“We’re thrilled to be back here in one of our first regularly-scheduled events since before the pandemic,” said CEO Kerin Hempel. And to have the event, our famous women’s-only race, to celebrate the accomplishments and the strength and the power of these women is the perfect way to kick off. We’re back.”
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