By Dickson Mercer
Alexandria, VA
October 2, 2011
For the Washington Running Report

Ten kilometers into last year’s New York City Marathon, Kenyan Moses Kigen Kipkosgei made what proved to be a smart move. He let the lead pack go. “The pace was high, so I set my own,” Kipkosgei recalled today after winning the 2nd annual Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in 1 hour 2 two minutes 37 seconds.

In New York, the strategy worked, as a game Kipkosgei went on to seize third place. His best ever result, he said. But today, as Kipkosgei passed 10K along the rolling George Washington Memorial Parkway, the 28-year-old professional had the opposite feeling: the pace was too slow. He already had command of the race; still, he pushed.

Kipkosgei’s winning time was a couple minutes slower than his personal best, but it lowered the event record set by Ethiopian Derese Deniboba, who this year finished 2nd though in an even better time of 1:02:56. Kipkosgei said the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon had served as a fine tune-up for his return to New York on November 6. “This year I am in better shape,” said Kipkosgei, who flew in from Eldoret, Kenya on Friday and will return there Monday to put the final touches on his marathon training.

The women’s runaway winner, Bekelech Bedada, (right) arrived in New York from Ethiopia just weeks ago. A member of Ethiopia’s national team, Bedada plans to get a taste for the American road racing scene for a little while longer before returning to Ethiopia to focus on the track, specifically the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Unchallenged, she cruised to the win in 1 hour 12 minutes 44 seconds, besting Gladys Asiba by more than three minutes. “I’m happy,” she said.

Whether it was to prepare for an upcoming 26.2-mile romp through the Big Apple or the month-away Marine Corps Marathon, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon offered runners of all abilities an apt practice venue. Jennifer Yang, 29, of Alexandria, VA, for instance, took advantage of familiar terrain—she does most of her running on the bike paths surrounding the race’s finish—to sneak in her first half marathon before her first attempt at 26.2 at the MCM.

For big city marathons, just getting to the start can be a challenge. Gracefully dealing with all the logistical challenges to minimize stress can ultimately make a big difference.

The point-to-point Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon attuned a runner to such an experience. Before 6:00 a.m., runners were arriving in National Harbor, where the race finished and boarding buses bound for Mount Vernon, where the race started. Once the race got going, runners were met by a course that, much like those aforementioned marathons, allows for reasonably fast running … so long as you run smart.

The opening mile featured a big downhill. From there, runners met a mix of subtle climbs and drops. That was until between miles 8 and 9, when they hit a challenging hill on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which returned the runners to Maryland. This hill, however, was really only a prelude to the tough climb still to come as runners rounded National Harbor toward the finish.

“I find this hill … very challenging,” Marirose Jarvis, 37, of Springfield, VA, said while waiting in line for a free massage at the post-race festival. She was shivering a bit, but, like the thousands there—plenty of whom had a complimentary beer and took in a band—did not seemed to be bothered by it.

Three days ago, though, as humidity spiked, Race Director Steve Nearman almost put in an order for a couple tons of ice. Good thing he did not pull the trigger. Rather than heat, runners wound up taking on the first legitimately chilly day of the year. Conditions, all told, were favorably cold and blustery.

The elite field Nearman assembled for today’s race included a mix of top-notch international runners, members of McMillan Elite/Team USA Arizona and top locals such as Michael Wardian, who finished 8th in 1:09.16, and Michelle Miller, who finished 3rd in 1:19:43.  She was also the top American female.

Miller’s (left) performance was tops for Georgetown Running Company’s racing team, which also offered guides for the race’s National Industries for the Blind National Half Marathon Championships. The winner of that event, Amy McDonaugh, 34, of Irmo, SD, was also fifth overall among women and second American in 1:24:01.

Rebounding from an injury, Miller ran 1:19:43, a 6:05 pace she said indicates her fitness level is on the right track as she prepares for November’s Philadelphia Marathon. Her plan was to run conservatively the opening 10 miles and then pick up the pace if she felt good, she said. “I’m in better shape than I thought, so that was a great confidence booster.”

Prize money ran five spots deep, with the overall winners pulling in $1,000. American-only prize money went five deep as well, with $800 going to winner. While Wardian picked up the top American-only check in the race’s inaugural running, this year he was fifth in a deeper field.

With the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials just months away, Nearman offered a special incentive of a $1,000 bonus to any runner who dipped under the trials-qualifying standard of 1:05:00. Afterward, Nearman could not have been more pleased: The top four American men in today’s race all qualified for the trials.

The group was led by Jordan Horn, 26, and Danny Mercado, 23. Both train with Team USA Arizona. Both were pleased with their results.

Horn, who was 3rd overall, joined Greg McMillan’s program about four years ago, not long after it was founded. Mercado, however, only joined two months ago, not long after he graduated from the University of Oregon.

Mercado, who was 4th overall and sports a Prefontaine-esque mustache, said he was not initially sure what direction he wanted to go with his running after Oregon. He thought about quitting, he said, but Horn was among McMillan’s athletes who encouraged him not to give up.

Horn, in turn, has been focusing on the mile the last couple of years. While this was Mercado’s first half marathon, it was only Horn’s second. Still, the older runner nonetheless served as a guide of sorts for Mercado, who admitted after the race that, on the starting line, he was nearly overcome with nerves.

“Right before the race I thought I was going to drop out,” he said. “As soon as we started taking off it felt so much better. I got in right behind him and it felt just like practice.”

The two ran together all the way until the bridge, where Horn, who clocked 1:03:53, gapped his buddy on the downhill. Mercado came through in 1:04:03. Though he now has a qualifier, he said he is not quite ready to tackle the marathon. Horn, on the other hand, is all set to debut at the trials.

“It’s a little scary,” he said, “but I’m excited.”

Third place Jordan Horn (10), fifth place Danny Mercado (11), sixth place Bobby Mack (12), and seventh place Ricky Flynn (647).

Top Male Finishers
1. Moses Kigen Kipkosgei, KENYA, 1:02:37 (breaks event record of 1:04:44 set by Derese Deniboba in 2010), $1,300
2. Derese Deniboba, ETHIOPIA, 1:02:56, $800
3. Jordan Horn, Flagstaff, AZ, 1:03:53, $2,350
4. Abiyot Endale, ETHIOPIA, 1:04:01, $500
5. Danny Mercado, Flagstaff, AZ, 1:04:03, $1,900
6. Bobby Mack, Raleigh, NC, 1:04:13, $1,600
7. Ricky Flynn, Lynchburg, VA, 1:04:15, $1,500
8. Michael Wardian, Arlington, VA, 1:09:16, $300
9. Seife Geletu, Washington, DC, 1:10:08
10. David Burnham, Arlington, VA, 1:10:51

Top Masters
1. Patrick Kuhlmann, Arlington, VA, 1:14:14, $200
2. Alex Hetherington, Vienna, VA, 1:17:11, $150
3. Paul Willis, Bronx, NY, 1:19:16, $100

1. Wardian, $300
2. Hetherington, $200
3. Lavar Curley, Washington, DC, $100

Top PVA Masters
1. Hetherington, $250
2. Robert Britain, Wayzata, MN, $150
3. Jack Beach, Nottingham, MD, $100

Top Female Finishers
1. Bekelech Bedada, ETHIOPIA, 1:12:44, $1,300 (breaks course record of 1:13:17 set by Catherine Ndereba in 2010)
2. Gladys Asiba, KENYA, 1:15:57, $500
3. Michelle Miller, Damascus, MD, 1:19:43, $1,050
4. Mekides Bekele, ETHIOPIA, 1:20:04, $200
5. Amy McDonaugh, Irmo, SC, 1:24:01, $600
6. Lisa Cron, Herndon, VA, 1:24:03, $300
7. Michelle Harburg, Washington, DC, 1:26:55, $200
8. Lauren Woodall, Washington, DC, 1:29:37, $100
9. Laura Greeson, Alexandria, VA, 1:30:33, $200
10. Sarah Brown, Arlington, VA, 1:30:45

Top Female Masters
1. Greeson, $200
2. Susan Graham Gray, Greencastle, PA, 1:33:47, $150
3. Gillian Walker, Springfield, VA, 1:35:17, $100

1. Kara Christenson, Alexandria, VA, 1:46:42, $300
2. Valerie Bambha, Alexandria, VA, 1:55:01, $200
3. Jessica Orozco, Arlington, VA, 1:55:29, $100

Top PVA Masters
1. Joann Johnson, Herndon, VA, 2:06:54, $250

NIB Visually-Impaired National Half Marathon Championships
1. Amy McDonaugh, Irmo, SC, 1:24:01
2. Matthew Rodjom, Alexandria, VA, 1:24:23
3. Susan Graham Gray, Greencastle, PA, 1:33:47 (in photo below)
4. David Kosub, Washington, DC, 1:34:37
5. John Morgan, Adelphi, MD, 1:43:16
6. Joseph Aukward, Bethesda, MD, 1:45:33
7. Thomas Panek, McLean, VA, 1:52:14
8. Rodan Hollins, Washington, DC, 2:10:07
9. Tim Paul, Chicago, IL, 2:21:34
10. Cassandra Dozier, Chicago, IL, 2:29:54
11. Doug Powell, Falls Church, VA, 2:33:01


By Dickson Mercer
Washington, DC
May 15, 2011
For the Washington Running Report

Name a local road race and Wilson Komen has probably won it. In 2005 and 2006, not long after the Eldoret, Kenya native moved to Washington, DC, the now 33-year-old runner more or less ruled the local roads. After winning the Capitol Hill Classic, though, Komen admitted that today’s race was his first taste of victory in quite some time.

“I just wanted to get a race in and see how I could do,” Komen said shortly before the awards ceremony. “I’m happy with it. It’s been awhile since I won a race.”

Komen won the Capitol Hill Classic, a challenging 10K race that starts and finishes at Stanton Park, at 5th and C streets in northeast Washington, DC, on a sunny, slightly humid morning in 32:24. Garrett Ash, 27 from Connecticut took second in 33:29. He then cruised to victory in the 3K, held about two hours after the 10K in 10:14.

This year’s Capitol Hill Classic, which offers a 10K, 3K, and fun run on historic Capitol Hill, had about 3,000 participants who traveled to the event from more than 20 states.

Kumsa Eticha, 27, of Washington, DC took third in 33:49, a day after placing second in the We’ve Got Your Back 5K in Reston, VA.

Local ace Maggie Infeld, 25, of Washington, DC was the top female, running 36:37 to hold off Alexandria, VA’s Lisa Thomas, 35, by 29 seconds. Kristi Markowicz, 41, of Arlington, VA took third in 38:24.

Top finishers received prize money of $200, $150, and $100, respectively. The top male masters finisher was DC resident Rodney Loeppky, running 35:51to place fifth overall. Markowicz was the top female masters finisher in matching her time that earned her second place in the Winter Runner Rankings.

Although Komen is losing track of the exact number, the Georgetown Running Company employee and Reebok-sponsored runner guesses he has run at least 30 marathons. In peak form, he ran 2:18:26, good for 14th place at the 2006 Boston Marathon. That same year, he placed third at the hilly Under Armour Baltimore Marathon in 2:17:06. More recently, Komen, who has dealt with hamstring problems in recent years, took third at the SunTrust National Marathon in 2:31:00.

“I’m going to pick it up now, just see what I can I do,” Komen said.

Sheika Brown, 29, of Frederick, MD finished 391st out of almost 1,000 female finishers in 58:29. She ran the Frederick Half Marathon on May 7 but said she had always wanted to run the Capitol Hill Classic.

Steve Coles, on the other hand, had run the race before. In 2000 the 53-year-old Frederick resident said he took up running as an incentive to quit smoking cigarettes. Eleven years later, Coles said he no longer smokes, and mixes the Capitol Hill Classic in with two marathons and several 10Ks he races every year. The course, he said, passes by the DC native’s former rival high school, Eastern Senior.

The Capitol Hill Classic was founded 32 years ago. Proceeds from the nonprofit race benefit Capitol Hill Cluster, a public school with three campuses: the Peabody Early Childhood Center, Watkins Elementary, and Stuart-Hobson Middle School.

Traditionally the race has started at 8:30 a.m., race director Don Montuori said. Due to events related to National Police Week, this year’s race started an hour earlier so Independence Avenue would not be blocked to traffic after 9:00 a.m. Also, to stay clear of Independence Avenue, the 3K course was rerouted on race day (and measured at 2 miles by the police patrol car).

After directing the race for his sixth year, Montouri, a runner and Capitol Hill resident, said the cost for putting on the Capitol Hill Classic has been on the rise since 2002. Combined fees to Metropolitan Police and the city have quadrupled since then to about $33,000, which used to be roughly equivalent to the amount that the race would raise for Capitol Hill Cluster.

“It’s a question for the PTA next year to decide whether we can afford to have it,” Montouri said.

The course, which takes runners along Massachusetts Avenue, around Lincoln Park and down to East Capitol Street before sending runners back for a loop around the U.S. Capitol, has not changed much since the event was founded, Montouri said. Race volunteer Mike Soderman called it a “runner’s course.” Komen, who ran the last four miles alone, described it as a “little challenging.”

The course record for men is 30:38, set by Gurmessa Kumsa in 2006. The women’s course record is 35:27, run by Heather Hanscom in 2002.

Afterward, an awards ceremony was held in Stanton Park. In front of the statue of American Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene, mats were laid out in the grass and many runners cooled down with a yoga session.

It would be a shame to lose this longest-running 10K race in the District of Columbia. This one has grown very nicely, and has become more than just a neighborhood event, attracting runners from all over the region as well as 27 different states. As typical of races today, this one included a wide range of ages from toddler to octogenarians; the sexes tip back and forth for majority participation, with women today holding the edge.


                               Awards Listing
                    Age Group Awards Based on Net Times
Place Name                    Ag City                  Time    
===== ======================= == ===================== ======= 
    1 Wilson Komen            33 Washington DC           32:24 
    2 Garrett Ash             27 Manchester CT           33:29 
    3 Kumsa Ethicha           27 Washington DC           33:49 
Place Name                    Ag City                  Time    
===== ======================= == ===================== ======= 
    1 Maggie Infeld           25 Washington DC           36:37 
    2 Lisa Thomas             35 Alexandria VA           37:06 
    3 Kristi Markowicz        41 Arlington VA            38:24 

    1 Ava Cavanaugh            8 Washington DC           51:30 

    1 Jackson Todd            12 Washington DC           48:47 

    1 Taylor Knibb            13 Washington DC           47:08 

    1 Thomas Smyth            18 Washington DC           40:03 

    1 Margaret Haley          18 Usaf Academy CO         45:02 

    1 Alexander Wepsala       23 Washington DC           39:01 

    1 Anna Novick             22 Hayama Machi            39:19 

    1 Matt Shechtman          26 Atlanta GA              36:11 

    1 Susan Hendrick          25 Washington DC           38:45 

    1 Daniel Yi               30 Alexandria VA           36:39 

    1 Laura Ramos             32 Silver Spring MD        40:59 

    1 Andrew Lipscomb         36 Alexandria VA           36:43

Photo below: Arrington Peterson (#2205) and Mary Robison (#2439), both 12, hold hands to finish the 2-mile race in 16:35.


Subscribe to our mailing list