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=”″ 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.”

The lead pack rockets down Rockville Pike during the Pike's Peek 10k.                                          Photo: Cheryl Young
The lead pack rockets down Rockville Pike during the Pike’s Peek 10k. Photo: Cheryl Young

If tailwind and the downhill course weren’t enough to get people rolling at the Pike’s Peek 10k in Rockville, five days of pent-up tension led to a moment of silence on the starting line to honor the victims and their families affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]Race director Jean Arthur said that Monday’s tragedy created anxiety for her with less than a week until the race.

“It added a few extra steps,” Arthur said. “But it went off okay. People showed up and I’m happy about that.”

An impressive group made up the elite competition and led the way through some heavy wind conditions and a cool breeze. But runners seemed to enjoy the near-ideal running conditions downhill along the Rockville Pike to White Flint Mall.

First place finisher Girma Gebre and second place finisher Ayele Feisa, both of whom came from New York

City to compete, pulled away from the leading pack near mile three. Less than a mile later, Gebre was able to widen the gap even farther and brought home a $1,000 check with a winning time of 28:23. Washington, D.C.’s very own Tumicha Horsa also had an impressive finish with a time of 28:45, placing third and winning $650.

The women’s competition came down to Tsehay Getiso, a 19-year-old visiting from New York City for the race, and Jane Murage of Royersford, Pa. Both Getiso and Murage led the close-knit women’s pack for the majority of the race.

Getiso, who recently overcame an injury, is currently working toward qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. And despite her best attempt to hang on, Murage took home the $1,000-winning prize money by crossing the finish line two seconds faster than Getiso. Trailing less than a minute behind the first two women was third-place finisher Hirut Mandefro of Washington, D.C. Mandefro brought home $650 with a fast finish of 33:13.

The race’s additional security included K9 dogs at the start and finish and motorcycles that drove up and down the course. Though every year requires a strong police presence, which involves coordinating several large road closures, this year’s race implemented heightened security measures in the wake of recent events.

Caroline Thompson of Rockville, Md., who has been running with a group of five other friends, said that she noticed some anxiety in the air.

“I think everybody had such a great spirit about it,” Thompson said. “I didn’t hear anyone wanting to drop out and not run.”

While the 18th Annual Pike’s Peek 10k marked Thompson’s second time competing in the race, she ran the course seven minutes faster than she did in 2012.

Pike’s Peek marked Calvin Baxter’s first 10k race. A runner since 2001, Baxter of Silver Spring, Md. competed in a Superman t-shirt, the same shirt that his son wore for the Kids Fun Run. Though Baxter was a little nervous about competing in a race that he had signed up for only one day prior, he said he found himself wanting to pass people on the course.

“I just wanted to compete in the race to bring my son out here so that he could do the kid’s race,” Baxter said. “I didn’t realize that when you get out here, it gets kind of competitive.”

Tradition is important for Pike’s Peek, a race that celebrates finishing with a festival area full of food, family activities and live music. Thirteen years ago, Lieutenant Pedro Meneses competed beside his recruiting class when he was enrolled in the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Training Academy. On the day of the Pike’s Peek 10k, Meneses led his own group of recruits to the race as head of the recruit fitness department for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, a tradition that he said has been going on for at least 13 years.

“This is culminating a lot of the training they’ve been going through at the academy,” Meneses said with recruits around him. “They’ve got another 10 weeks to go.”

Despite race security concerns throughout the country, the tradition and timeless racing spirit led to another successful  Pike’s Peek. The event proceeds went to the Montgomery County Youth Recreation Fund, Rockville Youth Recreation Fund, Scleroderma Foundation of Greater Washington DC and the RRCA Road Scholars.


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