Early was effective for Washington's Chris Graff, who surprised two-time defending champion Dan Browne and won the 15th Army Ten-Miler in 48 minutes 21 seconds at the Pentagon yesterday. More than 16,000 runners registered for the race, making it the largest 10-mile road race in the country.
Alisa Harvey from Manassas ran 57:47 to win the women's race for the second consecutive year.
Graff, who runs for the Reebok Enclave, a Washington-based training group, surged two miles into the race and opened up a sizable and ultimately insurmountable lead over a 15-man chase pack. When Graff broke the take--44 seconds ahead of Browne--he shook his fist and shouted, "Enclave! Washington, D.C.!"
The win capped an outstanding year for Graff. Last winter, he helped represent the United States at the world cross-country championships in Ireland. Last spring, he ran 28:07 for 10,000 meters, one of the fastest times of the year for an American.
Yesterday's triumph establishes him as one of the country's finest distance runners at just 24 years old. He also settled a score with Browne.
"I wasn't too pleased with Dan Browne's comments after he won last year," Graff said. "He said he would win this race as long as he was in the Army. We [the Reebok Enclave] wanted to make a statement."
The Enclave also placed Andre Williams third and Christian Fogarazzo fifth, and took the team title over Army.
"My hat's off to him," said Browne. "I tried to close in the later miles, but I never made much progress. By eight miles, I was running for second."
Browne did not break away from Williams after the nine-mile mark. Williams, suffering from a side stitch--and exhausted--ran 49:17. The Army's Shawn Found was fourth in 49:22.
Fogarazzo, who ran at St. John's (N.Y.) with Graff, was impressed by his teammate's moxie. "That was pretty early to make such a bold move," Fogarazzo said. "It's not as if the first mile was slow [4:47]. But he ran the race with a 10K mentality, and never looked back."
Graff went through five miles in 23:58; by that point, the chase pack of some dozen runners was more than 20 seconds back.
Women's winner Harvey didn't take the lead until four miles, when she passed Bea Marie Altieri, from Columbia.
"I wasn't going to try and break it open early," she said. "I'm a track runner--my strategy is usually to sit and kick."
Harvey didn't kick yesterday, as she finished more than a minute ahead of Altieri. Last week, Harvey won the Georgetown 10K.
Janice Addison, from Columbia, S.C., ran 1:00.00 and took third. Addison qualified for next year's Olympic marathon trials in June in Minnesota.
Army's Sammy Ngatia, 43, a former Kenyan world-class runner, won the masters division in 50:40. Jim Whitnah, 44, from Chevy Chase, was second. Patty Schull, 40, from Herndon, won the women's masters division in 1:03:11.
A persistent rain fell throughout the race, leaving standing water over many of the roads. With the troublesome logistics of a dual start and the huge crowd, many runners stood for a long time at the starting line.
When the Army's 105mm howitzer finally sounded to start the race, the runners let out an echoing roar, and splashed happily down the road. Temperatures in the low 60's kept most runners reasonably comfortable once underway.
"I don't mind running in the rain," Whitnah said. "But given a choice, I'd rather not race in it."