It only took five minutes, but the wait felt so much longer. Shadrack Kipchirchir, Leonard Korir and Sara Hall hit the finish line almost simultaneously at last October’s TC 10 Mile, forcing race officials to consult a photo to sort out the order of finish.
Kipchirchir won the race, edging training partner Korir to win the U.S. men’s 10 mile championship and the $10,000 equalizer bonus that goes to the first man or woman to cross the line. All three runners return for Sunday’s TC 10 Mile, with the U.S. titles and the bonus again up for grabs. The 10 Mile starts at 6:54 a.m. in downtown Minneapolis, about an hour before nearly 9,300 runners line up for the 37th annual Twin Cities Marathon.
The women will get a head start of 5 minutes, 45 seconds this year. Kipchirchir said he feels fit enough to repeat as champion, and perhaps to create a little less suspense.
“It was really dramatic, waiting to see who won,’’ recalled Kipchirchir, a 2016 U.S. Olympian in the 10,000 meters. “This year, my training has been going well. I want to make it a race; I won’t slack around. I know it will be really hard to catch [the women], but I’m going to believe, and go for it.’’
The women’s field is loaded with some of the nation’s top distance stars, including defending champion Hall; two-time Olympian Molly Huddle; Kellyn Taylor, who set a course record in winning Grandma’s Marathon in June; and hometown favorite Emma Bates.
Bates, from Elk River, finished 27th at the world half marathon championships in March in a personal-best time of one hour, 11 minutes, 45 seconds. She also placed third at the U.S. 20-kilometer championships last month.
Many happy returns
Jane Kibii was dressed for winter Friday. The winner of the women’s race at the past two Twin Cities Marathons wore snow boots, a thick knit cap and a jacket at the Health and Fitness Expo in St. Paul, on a day when temperatures struggled to reach 50 degrees.
That’s chilly walking-around weather for a native of Kenya who now lives in California. But it’s ideal for running a marathon, and Sunday’s conditions are expected to be similar. Kibii, 33, has flourished in Minnesota, winning the 2015 Grandma’s Marathon and finishing second in the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon before her consecutive titles.
“There’s something magic here,’’ said Kibii, who won last year’s race in 2:30:25. “That’s why I keep coming back.
“I’m very confident. My training has been going good, so I’m ready.’’
Going the distance
Chad Bjugan has left wedding receptions early to get home in time to run the TC 10 Mile. He hasn’t allowed pneumonia, a stress fracture or a hip injury to keep him out of the race.
The Chaska resident is among 17 people who have run the 10 Mile every year since it began in 1999, and he will return for the race’s 20th anniversary Sunday. Bjugan, 45, also has run all 13 editions of the TC 1 Mile.
“Those are my two streaks I’ve got to keep intact,’’ he said. “I hope in 30 years, I’ll be here talking about the 50th [10 Mile]. I love everything about it.’’
Sunday’s 37th running of the marathon is expected to include 21 runners and one wheelchair racer who have competed every year.
Try, try again
Elisha Barno, winner of the past four Grandma’s Marathons, is the favorite in the men’s field. Barno, 33, will be trying to win the Twin Cities Marathon for the first time after finishing as runner-up to Dominic Ondoro in each of the past three runnings. Ondoro is not entered this year.
Barno finished third at the Houston Marathon in January in a personal-best time of 2:09:32. His target Sunday is to run 2:10, just under his 2016 time of 2:10:21, third-fastest in the race’s history.
“After Grandma’s, I rested for one week, then started training again,’’ said Barno, who ran 2:10:06 at that race in June. “My training has been very good. I’m going to be thinking about winning.’’