Lokedi Wins Women’s Open Division; McFadden and Romanchuk Set Wheelchair Course Records
FALMOUTH, MA (August 18, 2019) – With an early morning fog lifting and the sun beginning to shine, Leonard Korir – wearing an Army singlet – became the first American man to win the New Balance Falmouth Road Race in 31 years, breaking the tape in 32:11.
“It’s so motivating. Like, that’s history,” said Korir. The last American man to win here was Mark Curp, in 1988.
Winning for the women was Sharon Lokedi, a 25-year-old Kenyan making her Falmouth debut. Lokedi, the 2018 NCAA champion at 10,000 meters, crossed the line in 36:29. American Sara Hall, 36, finished second, just five seconds back.
In the Wheelchair Division, presented by Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod, Daniel Romanchuk and Tatyana McFadden each broke their own course records, finishing in 21:58 and 26:15, respectively. It was McFadden’s fifth win here, and Romanchuk’s third. Both took home a $1,500 course-record bonus, on top of their $3,000 first prize, in honor of the wheelchair division’s 45th running.
The race began with a moment of silence for Tommy Leonard, who founded the race in 1973 and died in January at the age of 85.
Korir, 32, has finished as runner-up here twice in the past three years – including an epic battle with Stephen Sambu in 2017 that saw both men awarded the same time. This time, Korir was determined to gain an edge before the final downhill to the finish, and overtook Sambu at 5 ½ miles.
“I was feeling relaxed; I was feeling strong. I think today was my day,” said Korir.
Sambu, meanwhile, knew it wasn’t his. When Korir began to pull away, said Sambu, “I just let him go. I was not keeping up with him anymore. For him to win for the first time, it’s OK. I’ve won four times here.” Sambu would finish 18 seconds back, with Edward Cheserek – the third-fastest indoor miler in history running the longest road race of his career – gaining fast at the end to finish just one second behind Sambu.
Said Korir: “Stephen’s won four in a row, so I want to keep training and build my legacy. Maybe I’ll win five in a row?”
Kenya’s Silas Kipruto led opening miles of 4:27 and 4:36 before a pack of five came together along the shores of Vineyard Sound. Kipruto, Korir, Sambu, Edward Cheserek and David Bett were together for a mile before Sambu began to string the field out in single file fashion through 5K in 14:05.
Well aware of Korir’s speed and strong finishing kick, Sambu did his best to separate from his friend as they ran side by side through the fourth and fifth miles. Korir’s winning move came just as the pair took a sharp downhill around 5.5 miles. Korir rounded the next turn, and by six miles was in command.
Korir earned $10,000 for the victory, plus $3,000 for finishing as the top American and an additional $5,000 for winning “The Countdown.” A beat-the-clock handicap race, “The Countdown” features a finish-line clock that starts when the first woman breaks the tape, counting down the number of minutes and seconds the winning man has to beat, according to a pre-determined formula.
The top Massachusetts finisher was Jacob Thomson of Boston, 10th in 33:19, one spot behind former Wachusett Regional High School and Syracuse University standout Colin Bennie (ninth, 33:15), now living in Charlottesville, VA.
For the women, Kenyans Iveen Chepkemoi and Margaret Wangari blazed through the first mile in 4:58, leaving everyone else in their wake.
“We went out way harder than we’ve ever gone out on this course before,” said Hall, competing here for the fourth time. “Usually we’re all at 5:20 of something on this course, so I couldn’t hang with them. Sharon and I had a little better race plan, I think.”
By mile 2, the 21-year-old Chepkemoi had a 50-meter gap on Wangari, the 2012 Falmouth champion who finished second last year; a mile later it had grown. But Lokedi was working her way up, first passing Wangari and then, at about five miles, Chepkemoi.
“When the first pack moved I was just like be patient, be patient, and just try to go with the flow,” she said. “The whole time, I just kept telling myself ‘keep going, keep going, you got this.’”
The humidity, however, took its toll: After crossing the line, Lokedi was immediately helped to the medical tent. She said later that she didn’t remember anything for at least 10 minutes.
But now, she said in her delayed post-race interview, “I’m very fine. I’m feeling great.” Lokedi took home $10,000 for the win. Abbie McNulty, a three-time Massachusetts state champion while at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, finished seventh in her road racing debut, while 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden was ninth.
Falmouth fan-favorite Maddie Wilson, 10, placed fifth in the wheelchair division in a personal best of 52:25, far exceeding her goal of break one hour in her fourth appearance here. Other notable finishers include Olympic marathon gold medalists Joan Benoit Samuelson (45:26) and Frank Shorter (1:44:31); three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi (1:06:44); and NASA astronaut Suni Williams (1:16:15).
About Falmouth Road Race
The New Balance Falmouth Road Race was established in 1973 and has become one of the premier running events of the summer season. Each year the race draws an international field of Olympians, elite and recreational runners out to enjoy the iconic 7-mile seaside course. The non-profit Falmouth Road Race, Inc. organization is committed to promoting health and fitness through community programs and philanthropic giving.