Kirui wins first try at Bloomsday
Peter Kirui had a simple strategy Sunday morning for the 34th Lilac Bloomsday Run: Follow the lead truck.
The 22-year-old Kenyan, running the 12-kilometer course sight unseen, pulled away from a pack of nine countrymen after the 5-mile mark to win in 34 minutes, 28 seconds under sunny but crisp conditions.
Kirui flew in Thursday from Nairobi. He spent Friday and Saturday resting up from the 30-hour flight.
“I was resting,” Kirui said after he was asked if he toured the course. “I was tired. It was better for me to rest for today.”
He was well-served by relaxation.
Kirui beat a pair of fellow Kenyans. Julie Kogo, 24, was 5 seconds behind Kirui and Stephen Muange, 28, was 6 seconds behind Kogo. Three-time winner John Korir, 34, also of Kenya, took fourth (34:42).
Pre-race favorite Ridouane Harroufi, 27, of Morocco, was with the lead pack through the first half of the race before fading quickly. He finished ninth (35:43).
The lead pack – which consisted of 10 Kenyans and Harroufi – needed 4:38 to do the first mile. The pace picked up over the second mile (4:31), but the pack remained congested.
The leaders were four abreast as they crested the .3 mile-long Cemetary Hill. As they passed the 3-mile mark, that’s when Harroufi began to fall back.
As they passed Spokane Falls Community College, Jon Neill, the event’s elite athletes coordinator who rode in the men’s lead truck, said it was the biggest pack of leaders in race history.
Harroufi had fallen about 100 meters behind as the leaders reached the 5-mile mark. The pack remained tight as the leaders climbed Doomsday Hill.
Kirui started pulling away from the pack after cresting Doomsday Hill. He had a 15-meter lead when he reached the 6-mile mark in 27:50.
As Kirui turned onto Broadway Avenue, his pace picked up. At the 7-mile mark his lead had grown to 40 meters.
Just before reaching Monroe Street, Kirui looked back over his left shoulder and couldn’t see Kogo.
“I was running real quick with my colleagues,” Kirui said of the first half of the race. “I stayed behind and then after 20 minutes I started to move forward.”
Although Kirui’s lead was safe as he reached Monroe, he found another gear for the finish.
“I saw nobody and then I started moving faster,” he said.
Kirui liked the hilly course.
“It’s very hilly where I train at home,” he said.
Kogo thought he had a chance to win when the leaders reached the 5-mile mark.
“The course was very good for me,” Kogo said. “I really enjoyed the race.”
Muange said he had never raced against Kirui until Sunday.
“The winner was very good,” Muange said.