BY GEORGE BANKER
WASHINGTON, DC--"I was feeling pretty good and trying to do 57-58 minutes. I was there for about six miles and I had an Achilles problem and I jogged in. It was disappointing. This is an important race and I have fond memories about the race. I almost dropped out and I hated the thought of having to drop out," said Bill Rodgers, of Sherborn, MA, finishing in 1:14:03. Last year Rodgers ran 56:01.
Rodgers was the overall winner from 1978 through 1981 (48:57, 48:00, 47:08, and 47:17). In 1999 Rodgers was the first Masters in 54:03.
The overcast skies did not damper the spirits of the 6,579 runners at the 29th Nortel Networks Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run held April 8, 2001. In the first year, there were 141 finishers (12 women and 129 men). The course started in West Potomac Park where the runners went towards the Jefferson Memorial, along Independence Avenue with cherry blossoms as the backdrop. A sharp turn took the runners back towards, and across, the Memorial Bridge to Virginia, back to Rock Creek Parkway, up the Connecticut Avenue Bridge, and back to Ohio Drive. There was $28,000 in prize money.
"The attraction is great competition and seeing the cherry blossoms. This is an opportunity to run fast on a good course if you have decent weather. I was in no man's land for awhile. I was pretty close to one hundred percent. It was a rough winter and I think I'm back. I was trying to see how long I could hold 5:30 to 5:45 per mile," said Naoko Ishibe, of Silver Spring, MD, the first local female finisher in 57:15 (12th place).
"I was being competitive with the clock. The clock was kicking me. There were no other geezers around me. I ran as hard as I could until I got to the end. This race was about four miles too long. I averaged 6:10 per mile, the first mile was too fast," said Donna Moore (Team Brooks), of Silver Spring, finishing as first female Masters in 1:01:09 (20th place). Last year Moore ran 1:02:04 (17th) and in 1999--59:48 (19th).
Alisa Harvey, of Manassas, VA., finished in 59:03 (14th). Last year Harvey was the first local finisher in 58:06 (6th). Former Columbia, MD, resident, Bea Marie Altieri finished in 59:43.
Patty Fulton, a teammate of Moore, finished in 59:52 (17th). Last year Fulton ran 1:01:42 (14th) and in 1999--1:02:16 (28th).
"I got my 'PR' today, the weather was perfect. I was telling myself I didn't care who passed me. I have been chasing a PR for years to go under one hour. The first mile I ran too fast. I ran even splits. Towards the end I stayed focused when I started to hurt. My 5K time was 18:15 and 10K was 36:48," said Fulton.
Meyer posted the second fastest time in the age group 30-34 and the fourth fastest female time in the race history. Meyer has set a world's best at the half-marathon at 1:06:44 and 15K at 46:57.
Leonid Shvetsov, of Russia, two-time winner and record holder (44:31) of the George Washington Parkway Classic 15K, led through the first mile in 4:41 with a pack of 15. The defending champion (46:07), Reuben Cheruiyot, of Kenya, was mid-pack along with John Korir who was third last year (46:19).
Going into the second mile, 9:21 (elapsed time), El Arbi Khattabi, of Morocco, took to the front and opened a 50-yard lead. Into the third mile (14:03) Khattabi had a 15-second lead over the pack.
From the fifth mile the lead pack was closing in fast, but the speed was causing runners to drop off one by one. Khattabi crossed 10K in 28:58. Going into the seventh mile (32:47), Khattabi was caught by Cheruiyot and John Korir, of Kenya, (last year Korir was third in 46:19) along with Evans Rutto, of Kenya.
Into the eighth mile (37:14) the footrace started between Cheruiyot and Korir as Rutto faded, and near the Kennedy Center the noise from the passing runners was raising the level of excitement. They went through mile nine in 41:44.
The race was neck and neck going into the last quarter mile as the two began an all-out sprint, it was elbow to elbow. It was going to be a photo finish as Cheruiyot looked to be on the edge of defending his title, but Korir made the winning step to take first in 46:12 to 46:13 and collected $5,000.
"Cheruiyot was so strong. I thought he was going to outkick me at the finish. I've been doing a lot of speedwork and I have endurance. I was trying to talk with my friends early to close the gap on Khattabi," said Korir.
"He has a kidney problem and came to the U.S. for treatment. Today he didn't think about his health. Before the race he wasn't sure how much his body was going to help him. He gained a lot of confidence, he discovered his fitness level. He had his mind to finish the race from the start. He liked the city a lot, he didn't know the race was big and a good course with world-class runners. Next year, I'll come back and win it," said Khattabi (through his coach Hussein Makke), who finished in sixth place (46:49).
The first local male finisher was Christopher Graff, of Washington, in 47:22 (10th place). Graff was the 1999 winner of the Army 10-Mile Run in 48:20. The second local finisher was Andre Williams, of Washington, in 48:37 (19th).
The first male Masters was John Tuttle, of Douglasville, GA, in 50:18, the fourth fastest winning time. Tuttle set the Masters record last year at the George Washington Parkway Classic 5K with a 14:49.
"I was very happy and since coming off the marathon I wanted to win my age group. My first mile was 6:30. I slowed down too much for that. I was being competitive with just the people around me. The weather was fine. It was a little humid. My best time is 1:04:40 for ten miles in 1984. I just turned 48 and I'm happy that I'm not running any slower," said Betty Blank, of Falls Church, VA, finishing first in the 45-49 age group in 1:08:16.
Hedy Marque, age 83, of Alexandria, finished in 1:55:20. Marque has set single age American records for ages 72 through 81, and, pending confirmation, age 83 can be added. Marque started running at age 64.
Race honors went to Bennett Beach, of Bethesda, MD, the only runner who has completed all 29 races. At age 23, Beach ran 1:01:11 for 26th place, this year, age 51, he ran 1:03:14 for 116th place.
The Nortel Networks team division was won by Team Mac Attack in 3:35:16 (M. McRoberts, D. Freiert, J. Miller).
Team Teleglobetrotters was the first corporate team in 3:06:19 (A. Kahsay, R. Bolduc, H. Hall).
Team 11th Wing from Bolling AFB, Washington, was the first government team in 3:05:31 (J. Russelburg, P. Sandy, K. Robinson).
Go Sakura of the Townsend Group was the first Media team in 4:02:41 (J. Karim, R. Blanchard, L. Helinski).
The Howard County Striders was the winner in the Open males in 2:34:39 (E. Burke, M. Gilmore, C. Chattin).
The Female Flyers of the Howard County Striders was the winner in the Open females in 3:12:21 (V. Cox, V. Lang, K. Barton).
MCRRC Old Dawgs was the winner in the coed Masters in 2:56:26 (J. Whitnah, M. Horan, D. Moore).
The House of Representative division was won by the Dancing Homers in 4:04:21 (G. Thom, L. Boyagian, G. Smith).
The Senate division was won by Murray's Milers in 3:33:05 (I. Kaplan, C. See, M. Burnett).
1. John Korir 46:12
1. John Tuttle 50:18
1. Phil Cephas 1:55:31
1. Christopher Graff 47:22
1. Elana Meyer 52:16
1. Donna Moore 1:01:09
1. Naoko Ishibe 57:15