Ridouane Harroufi Wins 37th Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

By Jim Hage
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, April 6, 2009

With less than half a mile to go in the 37th Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run downtown yesterday, the race appeared wide open, with defending champion Ridouane Harroufi, from Morocco, one of six contenders in a tight, fast-moving pack.

But Harroufi knew better.

"The other guys, the Ethiopian [runner-up Feyisa Lilesa] and the Kenyan [third-place finisher Silas Sang] pushed the pace, but I stayed back, waiting," Harroufi said. And just as he did last year, Harroufi, 27, unleashed a powerful kick as he made the final turn near the Washington Monument and left his challengers behind. Pumping his fist and holding two fingers high, Harroufi broke the tape in 45 minutes 56 seconds, the fastest 10-mile time here since Simon Rono ran 45:51 in 1998.

Lilesa, an upstart 19-year-old racing in the United States for the first time, finished just two seconds back. He took 12th last weekend in the highly competitive World Cross-Country Championships in Amman, Jordan, as a last-minute replacement on the senior team when the coach decided he was too good to compete with his contemporaries as a junior.

"For today, second place is enough," Lilesa said through an interpreter. "I'll fix it next time."

Sang, 31, was third in 45:59.

Lineth Chepkurui, 21, also successfully defended her title, breaking open the tactical women's race at eight miles and running uncontested to the finish line. She finished in 53:32, 23 seconds ahead of Belaynesh Gebre and 49 seconds faster than her winning time last year. Teyba Naser, born in Ethiopia but a Bahrain national, was third in 53:58. Naser ran 32:28 to finish second in the Cooper River 10K in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday.

For Chepkurui, running 10 miles proved to be the simple part of her odyssey, as bad weather and missed flight connections in Kenya left her stranded for the better part of a day in London and delayed her arrival in Washington.

"I'm tired but I tried very hard," said Chepkurui, who after finally checking into the race hotel late Saturday night, walked to Chinatown near midnight for dinner.

Both Harroufi and Chepkurui earned $7,500.

In her final tuneup for the London Marathon on April 26, two-time Olympic marathon silver medalist Catherine Ndereba, 36, finished fifth in 54:27. Olga Romanova, 28, the 2003 Cherry Blossom champion, was sixth in 54:32.

Kenyan men took nine of the first 13 places. Jason Hartman, 28, from Boulder, Colo., finished 14th in 48:03. As the first American he won a trip to the Himeji Castle 10 Mile Race in Japan.

Sally Meyerhoff, 25, from Tempe, Ariz., finished seventh overall in 54:38 and was the first American woman. "The first five miles felt great," said Meyerhoff, who was awarded a $4,000 training stipend from the Road Runners Club of America in 2008. "I was right in front for a long time. But then they started moving and I was hanging on. This was my first time racing at 10 miles, so I'm learning."

A record 14,893 crossed the finish line.

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