The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Man unwittingly attempts to rob big-time college runners. A big mistake.

Collins Kibet can run the 800-meter dash in 1:47.23.

In fact, that time is what the all-American, University of Arizona senior ran when he won the Pac-12 championship in March.

He — with the rest of Arizona’s cross-country team — was staying in a hotel in downtown Minneapolis last weekend for the Roy Griak Invitational.

The team expected to run a few races, have a good time and head back to Arizona.

They certainly didn’t expect to chase a career criminal.

Needless to say, 48-year-old Darren Clinton, who was charged late last week with burglary and terroristic threats, didn’t expect to be chased by a collegiate cross-country team.

But that’s exactly what Kibet says happened.

It had been a grueling weekend — the team, according to Runner’s World, had run an 8K on Saturday and had just finished a 14-mile run Sunday morning. Five members of the team, along with coach Tim Riley, were enjoying a well-deserved breakfast across the street from the hotel where they were staying before leaving the Twin Cities to head back to Tucson, Ariz.

Ironically for someone so fast, Kibet was running late. He jogged up to the room the team was sharing on the hotel’s fifth floor.

Once inside, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported, Kibet was surprised to find the team’s bags hadn’t been packed. Odder still, their things were tossed about the room as though a tornado had raged through the place.

Then he heard a noise coming from the bathroom and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the flash of an intruder.

He said he turned to see Clinton holding a travel bag and one of the team’s backpacks.

The intruder ran out the hotel room’s door and down five flights of steps. It took Kibet a second to put it together, but when he did, he took off after him.

Kibet caught up to the man downstairs, in front of the hotel.

“He tried to move backward and said to me, ‘I have a knife,'” Kibet told Runner’s World. “Then he started running away.”

The threat of a knife didn’t seem to bother Kibet. What did was the fact that an intruder had robbed him and his teammates. They didn’t spend the weekend running, after all, to stop now.

He immediately gave chase.

“I was not going to let him go,” he told the Star Tribune.

The rest of the team, watching from a window at the restaurant, saw the heated interaction. Once the two started running, all five members of the team took off, flying through the door like a pack of cheetahs.

The man kept running but found himself in an alley that ended in a chain-like fence.

He was trapped.

“He was terrified. He was so scared. He knew he was caught and just wanted to get away,” Arizona junior Patrick Leary told Runner’s World.

The runners said Clinton did everything he could think of to get away.

He slashed his knife in the air.

He begged, saying, “Let me go, man” and “I have kids. Let me go,” according to Bailey Roth, an Arizona junior.

In a total reversal of the situation, the man who had just robbed the team pulled his own wallet from his pocket and threw it at the team’s feet, the runners said. Inside the wallet was his Social Security card.

Then, in a last-minute act of desperation, Clinton scaled the 10-foot chain link fence, according to the Star Tribune.

That’s when Bailey Roth took center-stage. He missed the Olympic trials in steeplechase by a second, and his mile is seconds away from four minutes.

A steeplechase is a race in which the runners have to bound over obstacles.

In other words, Roth and the suspected burglar were now engaged in a steeplechase.

As Roth gave chase, another member of the team called the police. Meanwhile, two of the runners split around the sides, hoping to head Clinton off.

Eventually, Clinton reportedly ran across Interstate 35W and up an entrance ramp. There, Minneapolis police officer Jim Walker was waiting.

“They caught the perfect guy,” Walker said, pointing out that Clinton has a long rap sheet. “He has four cases against him right now for assault and burglary. He’s been doing this for years.”

He told the Star Tribune that Clinton was breathing heavily and looked exhausted, while the runners hadn’t broken a sweat.

Added Walker, “It’s never a good idea to get in a foot chase with cross-country runners.”

“I chased him for about three-quarters of a mile in total,” Roth said, adding that this might help the team, which didn’t have a great weekend.

“We were pretty hyped to be honest,” Roth told Runner’s World. “We didn’t have a great race, and we have been working on our team dynamic. Afterward I told them, ‘Hey guys, our spirit is back.’ ”

It is unclear whether Clinton has retained a lawyer or entered a plea.