On a picture perfect summer day, Marblehead native Shalane Flanagan cruised to an American record at the sixth annual B.A.A. 10K, presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Preparing for the Olympic Marathon later this summer, Flanagan motored her way to a time of 30:52, shattering both the national and event records. For the men, Daniel Chebii of Kenya won his American road racing debut in 27:55. In total, 7,805 participants finished this year’s B.A.A. 10K, the largest in event history. The B.A.A. 10K, presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is an IAAF Bronze Label road race.
“There’s just nothing better than hearing the chants of ‘Go USA!’” said Flanagan, describing what it meant to set an American record in her home city. “There’s just nothing better than running at home before we go and represent our country in Rio.
“Doing it here, on my own streets, my town, my home, today is a day for sure I will remember for a really long time,” she continued. “I’ve had a lot of great highlights in my career, but today will be certainly one of them.”
Flanagan was poised to become the first American ever to win the B.A.A. 10K. Training with Olympic teammate Amy Cragg, the pair took off from the start determined to finish on the podium.
Through the mile in 4:53 and two miles in 9:51, Flanagan led a robust group of frontrunners that included Cragg, defending B.A.A. 10K champion Mary Wacera, and former Abbott World Marathon Majors champion Edna Kiplagat. Behind them, reigning Boston Marathon victor Atsede Baysa did her best to maintain contact.
Flanagan appeared to be a metronome on the streets of Back Bay. Hitting the turnaround near Boston University and passing the halfway mark in 15:26, the four-time Olympian dug deep and began to pull away from the field.
Using the large crowds and hometown cheers to her advantage, Flanagan pushed on and gained a step’s edge over the trailing Kiplagat at eight kilometers. From there, the gap would widen as the picturesque Boston Public Garden and Boston Common came into view.
Making the final turn onto Charles Street, Flanagan had one thing on her mind: the American record of 31:03, which she set last September.
Powering through the finish with 30:52 on the clock, Flanagan shaved 11 seconds from her national record and 12 seconds from the previous B.A.A. 10K event record (31:04, held by Mamitu Daska since 2014). Kiplagat maintained second in 31:06, followed by Cragg in third in 31:31. The three podium finishers set lifetime best times today on the flat and fast course.
“You have to really seize these kind of moments,” said Flanagan, reflecting on the day’s performance. “Here I am at home, my dad’s out here, I have family around, and it just seemed like a really special way to do my last race right before Rio. It kind of gives me chills just thinking about it. From here, it’s just really meaningful.”
Flanagan said that the crowds’ exuberance and chants of ‘USA! USA!’ around Boston helped propel her on to the record-setting performance. A majority of the 7,809 starters yelled encouragement along Commonwealth Avenue between miles two and four.
“It was so fun, especially when you flipped around [at three miles] and you could hear everyone cheering ‘Go USA, Go Shalane, Go Amy!’” Flanagan said. “It really means a lot to us, because we do a lot of solitary training and to know that we have the potential to inspire people to be fit, healthy, and get out and run. It really inspires our training and allows us to dig a little bit deeper knowing that there is a purpose to what we are doing.”
“I am absolutely thrilled. For a shorter road race, that was the most competitive I’ve felt in an international field,” added Cragg. “I felt incredibly strong, and I train with the best girl that just broke the American record. That’s a big boost of confidence as well. I couldn’t be happier.”
When asked about what her time indicates about her chances in Rio de Janeiro, Flanagan told the assembled crowd that it gives her a lot of high hopes. “I think today is a really good indication of where we are at. Gosh, I hope we are standing on a podium about six weeks from today in Rio!”
Reigning B.A.A. 10K and B.A.A. Distance Medley champion Wacera wound up fourth in 32:03, while Baysa –this year’s Boston Marathon champion– was 14th among women in 33:59.
Following her Boston Marathon victory last April, Baysa gifted her Champions’ Trophy to Bobbi Gibb, honoring the pioneer who was the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon some 50 years ago. Today, after the B.A.A. 10K Awards Ceremony, Gibb returned the trophy to Baysa in a poignant ceremony. Overwhelmed by the moment, Baysa – a well-known and accomplished singer back home in Ethiopia – sang a song to honor both Gibb and the welcoming people of Boston. Baysa’s song translated into English is “Black Winter,” which is a New Year’s song that looks forward to the beginning of summer.
“Boston is special for me, because I won the Boston Marathon and am able to sing in Boston,” said Baysa. “To have Bobbi here, I knew that she was going to be here standing next to me, and it gave me more confidence to be up here.”
The men’s race was a battle all the way until the final turn, when Kenya’s Daniel Chebii took off from countrymen Philip Langat and Daniel Salel. A very large pack raced through the heart of downtown Boston, with American Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein mixing it up alongside reigning champion Salel, Chebii, Langat, and Kenyan Silas Kipruto.
After passing three miles in 13:39, the hammer would be thrown down with a 4:27 fourth mile. However, the pack remained tight with all five still in contention.
Leading into the race, Chebii said he wanted to make his move after halfway. Ultimately, the deciding move would come much later, as he was side-by-side with Langat through 8 kilometers in 22:25. Salel kept pace two seconds back, followed by Ritzenhein.
Wanting to make his first trip to the United States worthwhile, Chebii unleashed a furious sprint with 500 meters remaining. The decisive surge dropped Langat and Salel, and Chebii dashed down Charles Street steps in front.
Becoming the sixth consecutive Kenyan man to win the B.A.A. 10K, Chebii broke the finisher’s tape in 27:55, seven seconds ahead of Langat (28:02). Salel was third in 28:08, while American Ritzenhein was fourth in 28:12.
“I am happy to be champion. The race was very good, everything was very nice!” said Chebii. “My first time to the United States, and I get the victory today, become the champion of Boston. I have to come back next year to defend my title again. I like Boston.”
Winning the wheelchair competition were New Jersey’s Tony Nogueira in 22:55 and Massachusetts’s Carla Trodella 1:07:34.
B.A.A. Executive Director Tom Grilk said the sixth annual B.A.A. 10K, presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was a grand success on all fronts. Between the postcard-like weather, record-setting times, memorable post-race ceremony, and an event-record number of finishers, Grilk was near speechless.
“Magnificent. Today was a day that one dreams about,” he said. “A wonderful day to run for everyone, and an emotional lift for everybody simply having our two Olympic marathoners here to run. To have them perform how they did, with Amy setting a personal best and Shalane running a personal best, course record and American record, made it a very, very inspiring day.”