When Edna Kiplagat reached the four-mile mark of the 2012 NYRR New York Mini 10K, she recognized the spot. "The memories are still fresh," she would say afterward about the stretch of Central Park's East Drive where she had broken away from her last two challengers in the 2010 ING New York City Marathon on her way to the victory -a landmark on her way to being chosen to represent Kenya in the London Olympic Marathon this year.
When she reached the same spot this time, she was surrounded by four dangerous rivals: Ethiopia's Aheza Kiros, the runner-up in last year's Mini, and her countrywoman Firehiwot Dado, the defending ING New York City Marathon and NYC Half champion; Hilda Kibet, a native Kenyan now representing the Netherlands, who won the 2008 Mini; and Diane Nukuri-Johnson, a member of Burundi's 2012 Olympic marathon team. Kiplagat, 32, a woman who exudes confidence, seized the moment once again. She surged and immediately opened a gap on the rest of the group. Kibet said later, "The race was easy in the beginning, but when Edna accelerated, I could not follow."
Kiplagat's training regimen for the London Olympic Marathon, which will be run on 5 August, has included twice-weekly sessions on a favorite hilly course, and she has become an expert downhill runner.
"My plan was to [use] all my energy on the downhills," she said. When she reached the top of Cat Hill nearing the five-mile mark, she let her long stride relax and flew down the 600-metre descent, while her competitors strung out in a lengthening single file. Kiplagat rounded the southern border of the park alone and cruised to the finish in an unpressured 32:08 to take the $10,000 championship prize on this 40th anniversary of the world's first all-women's road race.
Kiros, 30, finished 10 seconds later to repeat her second-place finish from 2011. Kibet, 31, followed in 32:24 to take the final podium spot. After Nukuri-Johnson (4th, 32:38) and Dado (5th, 32:51) came Stephanie Rothstein, a native New Yorker who now lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is preparing for the U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000m, to be run in Eugene on 22 June. Rothstein's sixth-place finish was a bit of a surprise considering the competition; she outran such luminaries as 2012 American Olympic Marathon team member Desiree Davila (11th), 2000 Olympic Marathon silver medallist Lidia Simon of Romania (12th), and three more Olympians.
"I was running alone at 5K," Rothstein said, "and I thought, 'I'd rather be running with people.' So I took a little gamble, and I caught up to the lead pack of five. I stayed with them for a mile, and then they threw down again." Rothstein's time of 33:04 gives her confidence for the Trials. "I recover well," she said. "I'll be ready in two weeks."
As Kiplagat headed out for a cooldown jog after the race, she was asked how she felt about the upcoming Olympic Marathon. "This was a good test," she said, smiling. "I will continue my marathon program now, but I know that I still have the speed."
A total of 6,122 women finished the 40th-anniversary running of the Mini, the world’s first all-women road race. Founded by NYRR in 1972, the Mini got its name when race founder Fred Lebow convinced the first sponsor to support a six-mile "mini" marathon—named for the miniskirt, which was then in fashion—rather than a full marathon. A few weeks later, Title IX became law, guaranteeing young women the right to participate in school sports and creating new opportunities for generations of female athletes. The first race featured 78 participants. The event has had a total of more than 156,000 finishers and has been a model for women’s road races around the globe.
Honored guests included women's running pioneers and Mini 10K co-founders Kathrine Switzer and Nina Kuscsik, the event’s first champion in 1972 Jacqueline Dixon, and IAAF President Lamine Diack. Switzer ran the race, finishing in 58:42.