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by Dickson Mercer April 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm 0

Christine Ramsey of Baltimore won the Pike's Peek 10K in Montgomery County this morning. Photo: Mark Schadly.

Christine Ramsey of Baltimore won the Pike’s Peek 10k in Montgomery County this morning. Photo: Mark Schadly.

The fourth try was the charm for Christine Ramsey, who broke the tape at the Pike’s Peek 10k Sunday morning in 34:43.

The Baltimore runner debuted here in 2008, finishing 5th in 36:19.  Four years later, she returned, running more than 90 seconds faster but finishing two spots lower. Last year, another solid showing got her 11th.

Enter 2014.  This morning, two miles in, Ramsey, 31, found herself in the lead pack with about half a dozen women all running well under six minutes per mile. “I felt pretty strong, so I picked it up,” she said. “They were still pretty close behind me, but nobody went with me.”

[button-red url=”https://www.mcrrc.org/pikes-peek-10k-8″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 10k Results [/button-red] At mile 4, Ramsey surged again, holding onto a slim lead over Alexandria’s Lindsay O’Brien, on the way to a new personal best of 34:43 and a $500 pay day. “It was great because we pushed each other,” she said of her competitors.

Ramsey, as of late, has been more focused on reaching the finish line of her PhD program than on trying to win races. She recently turned in her dissertation; the defense is in two weeks. “So it felt good to have a good race,” said Ramsey, who will move to New Haven, Conn., soon to start a post-doctoral position.

All but 70 seconds separated Ramsey from Selamawit Lemma in 5th. O’Brien was 2nd; it was her second-straight sub-35-minute showing here. Columbia’s Julia Roman-Duval was 3rd in 35:05, followed by Loring Crowley of Winston Salem, N.C., in 35:23. Kensington’s Cindy Conant, 53, was the top master in 38:08.

On the men’s side, Nahom Mesfin, running his first Pike’s Peek, took the lead early and never looked back. He was all alone, pumping his arms on the long downhill to the finish line and waving to the crowd, winning in a net time 28:28, 22 seconds off Julius Kogo‘s event record set in 2011.

Mesfin, a former Olympic steeplechaser, is living in Alexandria, and is transitioning to longer races, he said.  To that end, he recently returned from a four-month training trip to his native Ethiopia.

Early in the race, Mesfin questioned the feedback he was getting from his watch, he said. He was seeing kilometer splits in the low 2:30s, but the pace felt a slower than that, he said. “I was not in a good mood.”

Less than a half hour later, his mood had changed.

“I am so excited, and so happy,” said Mesfin, who had been disappointed with his performance at the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run earlier this month.

Baisa Moleta, also of Alexandria, was 2nd in 29:04, followed by Dereje Deme of Silver Spring in 29:09. Gurmessa Megerssa, a Washington, D.C., resident via Ethiopia who reigned supreme over the local roads in 2006 and 2007, closed hard down the final straight to clock 29:19. Getachew Asfaw of Silver Spring rounded out the top five.

Bethesda’s Conrad Laskowski, 7th in 30:12, ran with the lead pack early on alongside Gaithersburg’s Chris Sloane, 8th in 30:33.

“I was trying to run under 30,” Laskowski said. “Came up a little short, but I am happy with it. It’s a PR.”

Philippe Rolly, 41, of McLean, was top master in 31:37.

Downhill, fast, and cool

For Pike’s Peek, runners start on Redland Road near the Shady Grove Metro station, make a quick left on Route 355 and bee-line it south past the White Flint station, where a big downhill covers the last .2 miles. “It is probably the fastest 10k you can get without going on the track,” Ramsey said.

That, as it happens, is only part of its appeal. In addition to professional-level competition, former race director Jean Arthur can only remember two years when this Montgomery County Roads Runners event had bad weather. This year, the temperature was cool, and the way the finish line banner was flapping, you knew the wind was at runners’ backs.

“I ran it for the first time last year, and I thought it was so good I came back again,” said Brian Carlson, a nine-time marathoner who started running in 1988. The Reston Runners member, who is 67, likes the net-downhill course. Plus, he said, “It’s a very well-run race.”

“You know it’s net downhill, so you know you’re going to get a pretty good time,” said Jody Gil, who came close to achieving her goal of breaking 53 minutes.

Gil ran with her longtime friend Jared Sher for six-plus miles. “He turned on the guns at the end,” she said.

Leland Hao ran the race with his son, Kelvin Hao, 11. It was Kelvin’s first 10k, and the smile on his face afterward suggested he’ll have no problem finishing the Disneyland 10k in late August.

When Kelvin’s younger sister was hospitalized for cephalitis, he met other kids his age fighting a rare childhood disease called ataxia-telangiectasia, also referred to as Louis-Bar syndrome, Leland Hao said. In Anaheim, Calif., Kelvin’s race will raise money for the A-T Children’s Project, which seeks a cure.

The race had a wave start to accommodate about 2,500 participants, and for the first time offered pacing teams. Bethesda’s Danny George, typically a 36-minute 10k runner, helped about 10 runners meet their goal of breaking 45 minutes.

“I just wanted to stay even and give them a little head start,” George said. “That way, once they got to the top of the hill, they could just coast right in.”

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