Kenya's Emily Chebet Wins 35th Freihofer's Run For Women

Posted at: 06/01/2013 8:56 PM
By: Freihofer's Run For Women

ALBANY, NY (June 1, 2013) — At today’s 35th running of the Freihofer’s Run for Women, held on the streets of downtown Albany, Kenya’s Emily Chebet proved that there’s a lot to be said for course knowledge. Against world-class competition, Chebet, 27, prevailed in a time of 15:26, defeating two of her compatriots, Esther Chemtai (15:32) and Isabella Ochichi (15:35). For her victory, Chebet earned a prize of $10,000. Chemtai and Ochichi earned $5,000 and $3,000 respectively.

In 2010 Chebet had set the Freihofer’s course record of 15:12 — an exceptional time on the rolling Albany course. That time, plus the Kenyan’s victory in this year’s World Cross- Country Championships in Poland, were all that was necessary to indicate that she would be the woman to beat in this year’s Freihofer’s race. 

Temperatures in the mid-80s (approaching 30 degrees Celsius) did not deter a record field of 5,045 starters.  However, it did prompt Chebet to opt for a tactical strategy rather than an all-out assault on her own course mark. From the gun, she settled in behind Chemtai and Ochichi, allowing them to control the pace and entertain thoughts of claiming the victory. A first kilometer of 3:09 and an opening mile of 5:05 gave evidence of a testing pace — all the more so given the burgeoning heat — but also signified that this outcome would be determined as much by tactics as by raw speed. 

In the wake of the three leaders, a small pack gave chase, a group that included Ethiopians Amane Gobena, Merima Mohammed and Zemzem Ahmed, plus Burundi’s Diane Nukuri Johnson and New Jersey’s surprising Amy Van Alstine. The rolling hills just past the first mile quickly determined, however, that the Kenyan trio would be the ones to decide the places on the podium. As Chemtai maintained the momentum, with Ochichi on her shoulder and Chebet tucked in behind, inexorable daylight opened on the few remaining chasers, giving definitive evidence that this was going to be entirely a three-woman race.

Leaving the shade of Washington Park, Ochichi, Chemtai and Chebet pressed hard along the open expanse of Western Avenue and Washington Avenue. At the two-mile mark, passed in around 10:12, Chemtai held her customary position at the forefront, with Ochichi alongside and Chebet still tucked in. With the lead trio safely ahead — holding 45 meters on Van Alstine, Gobena and Mohammed — and with nobody making any demonstrative moves, it was evident that this was going to come down to a flat out sprint for the finish line.

That was how it transpired and that was how course knowledge played to Chebet’s advantage. As the leading trio wound its way back through Washington Park and out onto Madison Avenue for the 600m charge to the finish line, Chebet pushed to the front for the first time in the race. Though it first appeared to be a gentle increase in tempo, in reality it was a blistering increase in pace. Ochichi, who had looked remarkably comfortable, was dropped almost immediately. Chemtai mounted an initial response, but she too had little to offer once Chebet truly lit the afterburners. Along the final 200m downhill straight, Chebet had it all to herself, her six-second advantage at the line giving all the evidence that was needed of the dominance of her performance.

"We were right together,” she stated after her victory. “Then I said to myself, 'Go!'” Not a bad tactic, when you think about it.

Marathoning legend, Joan Samuelson, who placed second (to Carmen Troncoso) in the over-50 division, commented of Chebet, “Any time you have a world champion come back to Friehofer’s, that’s amazing.”

The over-40 race offered none of the late race drama of the open division, with Poland’s Dorota Gruca dominating the division and taking a second consecutive title in a time of 17:00. Second place went to Sheri Piers from Maine, now coached by former World Cross-Country Champion, Benita Willis, who recorded a time of 17:25.

“When you’re older, you have to listen to your body,” asserted Gruca. “That’s what I did today. I didn’t pay attention to the three at the front, as they are great runners. It was a tough race. I wanted to run faster, but in these conditions, I was just happy to do what I did.”