The three-year-old course record in the Hecht's 10-mile road race was never in danger yesterday, after the leaders opened with a 4:48 first mile on the only downhill portion of the demanding race, descending from Carter Barron to Rock Creek Park.

But Kenyan Joseph Kipsang of Takoma Park wasn't particularly worried about beating the record of 49 minutes 8 seconds. He ran comfortably with the leaders through two four-mile loops in the park and back up the steep half-mile hill to Carter Barron. Then, with his trademark finish, Kipsang sped past Steve Spence with about 200 yards remaining, winning in 51:11.

Spence finished in 51:14. James Madison distance coach Bruce Coldsmith led until the eighth mile and took third in 51:28.

Women's winner Suzanne Girard-Eberle trailed Carolyn Forde through five miles, before going on to win in 59:30. Forde finished second in 1:00:52 and Mary Salamone (1:00:57) was third.

"I knew the pace was slow," said Kipsang, who finished second two weeks ago in the Pittsburgh Marathon. "In a race like this, time is no factor because of the hills and the heat. I'm trying to get used to the heat; I'll be running in some top races in the heat pretty soon. And these conditions were ideal."

Both the temperature and humidity were in the 80s at the 8 a.m. start. Coldsmith, Spence and Kipsang were among a group of eight leaders ascending the first hill of the course, just after the first mile. But, by the fourth mile, the leaders were down to three.

"I was leading the whole way," said Coldsmith, who finished third in the George Washington Parkway 15-kilometer in similar fashion. "And I knew that they had both raced recently, so I knew my best shot would be to make them hurt early. But I couldn't run fast enough to make them hurt enough."

The second and third miles slowed to more than five minutes per mile. The trio passed the halfway mark at 25:20.

"I wanted to hold on as long as I could, and I was thinking I may have fresher legs," said Coldsmith, who ran at T.C. Williams High School. "But Spence made his move up the hill."

Spence, 25, a Hanover, Pa., resident formerly of Arlington, won the Roanoke 10K Saturday.

"I felt good after the race Saturday and decided to give it a try since I had nothing to lose," he said. "If I was feeling bad, I'd just drop out."

He pushed the pace up the final hill, losing Coldsmith. But Kipsang remained doggedly on his heels, passing Spence as they rounded the cones to the finish.