Spectators near the cathedral on Summit Avenue in St. Paul were no doubt confident one of the three elite women flying by would win the TC 10 Mile. After all, there were only a couple of blocks to go, and the group of men was back, a quarter-mile.
"We knew by the top of the hill, by the cathedral, that we'd catch the women," said Shadrack Kipchirchir. "But I didn't want to go too soon, because one of the guys might pass me. So I waited and waited …"
An all-out sprint led to the closest finish in the race's history: A referee determined that Kipchirchir, of Colorado Springs, Colo., had outleaned his training partner, Leonard Korir, both clocked at 47:33. Kipchirchir and Korir, in turn, edged out Sara Hall of Redding, Calif., who won the women's race in 53:43.
Emmanuel Bor, who trains with Kipchirchir and Korir in Colorado Springs, rounded out the men's podium with a 47:39 third-place finish. Natosha Rogers of Littleton, Colo., was a close second in the women's race in 53:45, followed by Aliphine Tuliamuk of Santa Fe, N.M., in 53:52.
The TC 10 Mile was designated as the USATF 10 Mile National Championship. That competition is orchestrated as an equalizer challenge, with the elite women given a 6-minute, 18-second head start over the elite men's field. The first finisher, man or woman, receives a bonus of $10,000 on top of the $12,000 prize that comes with the national champion title.
The men in the championship field, stacked with talent, had their hands full racing each other, as evidenced by the large pack still together as they neared the cathedral. At the end, only 21 seconds separated the first- and ninth-place man. While the early pace may have been racing as usual for the men, the furious finish was fueled by the equalizer bonus.
"If it had been a regular race, we might have slowed down, but when we saw we could catch the women, we went for it," said Kipchirchir.
By 2 miles, Hall, Rogers and Tuliamuk were nearly out of sight of the rest of the elite women, a lead they maintained to the finish. Friends and frequent competitors, all three said they worked together to maintain their brisk 5:23-per-mile pace. Rogers had hurt her hamstring in the lead-up to the marathon, and still Saturday night was unsure she would start. Once under way though, she said adrenaline kicked in and she never felt the hamstring problem again.
The three women focused on each other and the other women, until they heard spectators cheering for the hard-charging men.
"I didn't think much about the guys during the race, but maybe I should have," said Hall, who missed out on the $10,000 equalizer bonus by 1 second. "I've been doing marathon training, so it was fun to run fast. But I don't think I could have gone much faster."
A record 10,406 runners finished the TC 10 Mile; 7,518 finished the 36th Twin Cities Marathon. Matthew Porterfield won the men's wheeler title in 2:04:03; Hannah Babalola was the women's champion in 2:24:34.
Conditions were good for running during the 10 Mile, and for those marathoners finishing under 4 hours — 55 to 62 degrees under cloudy skies. Rain began in earnest at noon, though neither runners' nor spectators' spirits seemed dampened. About 148 runners were treated in the medical tent at the finish line. Two runners were transported to medical facilities for noncritical injuries.