Wube pulls away from pack near finish line to win Virginia 10 Miler, Ngige breaks women’s record
Saturday’s Virginia 10 Miler became the most competitive road race Lynchburg has seen in years.
Four elite runners entered Riverside Park halfway through the race in a tight peloton, then remained together for the final 5 miles of the race, until 20-year-old Ethiopian runner Melkamu Wube broke away. breaks away as he crosses Farm Basket Hill to win the 48th edition of the race with a time of 47 minutes, 48 seconds.
The top four athletes – including runner-up James Ngandu, Shadrack Keter (third) and former Liberty University standout Sam Chelanga (fourth) – all finished eight seconds apart, which is basically unheard of at the event. Online records dating back 24 years show no example of a quartet of riders leading the pack separated by such a thin margin. And ideal weather conditions – temperatures hovered in the low 50s as elite riders battled it out on the course – created another anomaly: 10 riders at the front of the peloton posted times of less than 50 minutes, which which had not happened since 2016.
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“It was a really good group,” Chelanga said of the foursome as they broke away from the field on Rivermont Avenue before meandering through cool, shady Riverside Park. “When I saw the roster, those guys are really talented. They’re really good at road racing. I’m really good at track. Road racing is a bit different. Most of these guys have a lot of skills. experience….Overall, hey, I think that’s one of the best areas…in this race.”
Chelanga – the 37-year-old Kenyan-born star who ran at LU from 2008 to 2011 and is a two-time NCAA cross country champion and NCAA 10,000 meter record holder – was running in her first Virginia 10 Miler , and he really wanted the win.
“That’s why I came here,” he said. “But I felt like you can only do what you can control. … I tried to go the last mile and it just didn’t work. Those guys were much stronger than me today. Sometimes you win some, but it was definitely a good experience for me.”
Wube and Ngandu, 32, each averaged 4:47 per mile. Keter, 21, and Chelanga were each at 4:48 a.m. Wube beat Ngandu by one second after hanging around that group for much of the race. Keter led the pack for much of the race. Wube found his kick in the final 400 yards or so for his first 10 Miler win after finishing fourth in Lynchburg three years ago.
Chelanga (47:56) was a crowd favorite on Saturday because the local running community is well aware of his collegiate accomplishments, which include two additional NCAA titles in track and field.
“I see these people, they’re cheering me on for a reason,” he said. “I would have liked to win, but I tried my best. If they looked, they certainly saw. I was until the end. That little kick, you can’t control it.”
He received the biggest ovation of the day on the awards podium.
“For someone of this caliber to come back [to the area] really improves the game of all our elites,” said Fedorko. “…That kind of competitiveness and respect really fueled the competition on the course and made for an incredible finish. … It was fun to watch.
Kenyan runner Monicah Ngige, competing in her first 10 Miler since 2017, finished first among women and broke a course record along the way, just six days after winning the Philadelphia Half Marathon.
Ngige, 28, posted a 53:18, breaking the previous mark of 53:39 set by Vicoty Chepngeno in 2019. Ngige finished 18th overall.
“It was amazing,” Ngige said. “I didn’t expect to break the record.
Some people guessed she would break the record earlier this week.
“I knew there was a chance she would come close,” race director Jeff Fedorko said. “I did not dream of a break of more than 20 seconds in this record.”
But halfway through, she knew she was ready for a good day. At Mile 5, she says, she realized she was running well. At the 8 mile mark, she timed herself at 42 minutes, so getting to the next mile in 48 or 47 minutes wasn’t out of the question. Then it would just be a matter of finishing strong.
She did just that, breaking away from her only serious challenger, 2021 10 Miler Women’s Champion Sarah Naibei, despite the grueling climb of Farm Basket Hill.
“I can push it and push it and push it. I did that until the finish,” Ngige said of his performance in the back half of the course, adding that the elevation change was “difficult, but in Kenya we are used to hills.”
Naibei finished second with a time of 54:20 – improving on her time from last year by more than a minute and a half – and two other runners also posted times under 60 minutes. Kelsey Bruce and Marybeth Chelanga finished third and fourth at 59:05 and 59:21 respectively.
Naibei finished with a pace of 5:26 per mile, behind Ngige’s 5:20 per mile.
“I liked the course. The weather was good and the people were spectacular,” Ngige said Saturday, six days after winning the Philadelphia Half Marathon. “…It was really amazing there.”
Mark Fairley was the first Lynchburg-based racer to cross the finish line. The 26-year-old posted a 54:10.
Gabriella Smith, 25, was the first Lynchburg-based woman to finish, clocking 1:16.43.
Cooler weather and a better practice plan helped Lynchburg’s Jeff Harrington shave almost five minutes off his time from a year ago. The 52-year-old, who competed in approximately 25 Virginia 10 Milers, won the Male 50-54 and Male Grand Masters divisions, placed third in the Males Masters division and finished 44th overall with a time of 1 : 02.39.
“This year has been perfect,” he said of the conditions. “But then you try to go faster. So I had a little side stitch here, which just means I was pushing it hard. And then you want to throw it the last stretch here [up Farm Basket Hill], but for me, it was like little vices on the back of my hamstrings, and little girls were walking past me and I was like, “I gotta go!” I have to go!’ But still, it’s so much fun.”
Bruce traveled to Lynchburg from Brackettville, Texas, and stayed with a host family before catching a flight Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve done it many times so I love coming back here because everyone is so friendly and just the vibe,” she said. “…It just provides a complete experience that’s really fun. …It was tough, but it’s still tough. I know it’s a tough course.”
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