Gilbert Kiptoo’s drive for five is complete.
The Kenyan runner topped the field Monday, capturing his fifth straight Firefighter’s Ten Mile Road Race title. Kiptoo, who crossed the line in 51:10, became just the second racer to win five in a row, equaling Jon Balabuck’s mark set between 2003 and 2007.
“I was ready for this race, although I didn’t run a good time,” Kiptoo said. “It was a bit windy. I had to use a lot of energy going down, then on the way back I had to relax because I have another race next weekend.
Kiptoo was well out in front at the race’s halfway point, and maintained a 15-second lead for most of the final five miles, ultimately beating Thunder Bay’s Trevor Zimak by 17 seconds.
Thunder Bay’s Dominique Aulagnon was third, four seconds behind Zimak.
“I wanted just to relax,” he said, asked about the pace he tried to set. He wasn’t out to break any records, and wasn’t a threat to Pekka Pairvaranta’s 47:09, a race record that’s stood since 1975.
But even at three-quarter speed, Kiptoo was still the class of the field.
“The gap was 15 seconds all the way. I didn’t want them to come that close. Whenever they started to push I rushed. Otherwise I was not competing my best,” he said.
Zimac, the top local finisher, said it was an excellent race in perfect running conditions – cool, but with the sun shining brightly.
It led him to a personal best time, giving him hope of chasing down Kiptoo in years to come.
“I think I was about three minutes faster than last year, so that’s a real big improvement for me,” said Zimac, who trains with the Lakehead University track team.
“I ran into some problems in the race last year, stomach issues and whatnot, but we took care of that with proper prep this year. Everything was good. We ran a second five miles a little bit quicker, so we negative split. So that was good. I left everything out there on the course.”
There was no repeat champion on the women’s side.
But Jaclyn Rollins had to beat a pair of past winners to capture her first Ten Mile title.
The Simcoe, Ont. native, who moved to Thunder Bay late last year, crossed the line in 1:02:25, 31 seconds faster than Duluth’s Katie McGee, an eight-time champion. Thunder Bay’s Nicki Wilberforce finished third in 1:04:24.
“I was just focused on running with my teammate (Lisa Alaimo). We were training together a lot and we thought we could go at it at a good pace and after five miles, just see what happened,” Rollins said.
“Three or four miles in I was feeling pretty good and started pushing the pace a little bit, probably a little early. But I guess I got out there and was by myself and I just said, ‘OK, now not to get passed.”
Alaimo, for the record, was fourth in the women’s competition.
Race director Meghan Shanks was ecstatic with the turnout, a record 1,100 racers or so entering the annual Victoria Day event.
“We are thrilled with the turnout,” she said, worried the lengthy winter might have an impact on numbers.
But while for some, the race was about winning or setting personal bests, Ashley Goodlad had a more personal inspiration in mind.
Goodlad, a 911 dispatcher, wore a shirt signed by Thunder Bay police officers, and dedicated her run to Const. Joe Prevett, who collapsed while training recently and died.
“It was an absolute honour to run on behalf of the department today,” she said.
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