Freihofer's Run: With Daska out, Kenyan contingent should be tough to beat
ALBANY The recipe has been altered, and the oven will be cranked up a few notches higher than usual, but the 35th annual Freihofer’s Run for Women 5k promises to produce a typically remarkable result this morning.
The forecast calls for unseasonably and perhaps witheringly hot temperatures in the 80s.
The elite field lost two-time defending champion Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia this week due to injury, but course record-holder Emily Chebet of Kenya is back after missing last year’s race with an injury of her own.
She’s an active ingredient who could shake things up in what looks like a competitive race between a strong group of Kenyans and Ethiopians, with several top Americans in the mix, too.
“All three of those Kenyans girls flew in from Nairobi,” Freihofer’s Run elite athlete recruiter John Tope said. “They’re not running anything else here, then turning around and going back to Nairobi. You’re not doing that unless you’re fit, you’re ready to roll.”
The 5k race will begin at 9:45 a.m. from the Madison Avenue entrance to the New York State Museum and Empire State Plaza. The $23,000 prize purse for open athletes includes $10,000 to the winner.
Daska had intended to run, but suffered a minor injury during training in Addis Ababa this week, and decided that she wasn’t 100 percent after giving it a few days to get better, Tope said.
Still, the African contingent is very strong.
Among the Kenyans, Chebet ran a record 15:12 at Freihofer’s in 2010, Esther Chemtai has a 14:57 personal record in the 5,000 meters and 31:27 for 10,000, and Isabella Ochichi won the silver medal in the 5,000 at the 2004 Athens Olympics, although she has returned from a long layoff to become more of a half-marathoner this year.
Although the Africans are used to training in hot conditions, one question about the effect of today’s weather forecast is that it comes on the heels of relatively cool weather, so the runners perhaps haven’t had time to get their bodies adjusted.
Chebet and Chemtai may not have that problem, because they’re coming off the Bangalore World 10k in India.
“The Kenyans, we are running together. Last week in India, it was good,” Chebet said.
“The thing I like about Esther is she and Emily ran in Bangalore, India, so you know it was hot,” Tope said. “They both ran well in the heat, and it looks like it’s going to be hot [today].”
Tope also pointed out a possible parallel between Chebet’s 2010 Freihofer’s and this year’s: she won the World Cross Country Championship both years.
“For most people, outside of the Olympics, the deepest and toughest field is probably the World Cross Country,” he said. “For her to win that for the second time, that just shows how talented she is.”
The Ethiopian contingent lost Daska, but is still formidable with the likes of Amane Gobena, Zemzem Ahmed and Merima Mohammed, who won the Bolder Boulder 10k by over nine seconds (33:58.79) over Gobena. Ahmed was 10th.
The question for them is the quick turnaround from that race in Colorado on Monday.
“You’ve got three Ethiopians, three Kenyans, and the only thing you don’t know about the Ethiopians is that they ran at Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day,” Tope said. “It’s a tough course at altitude. They train at altitude, but they don’t race at altitude that often.
“Merima and Zemzem are very strong runners. Gobena has been here before and knows the course.”
Gobena was eighth during Chebet’s record run in 2010.
The top Americans include Michelle Frey, who was sixth in 2012; Sarah Crouch, who ran in the U.S. Olympic Trials last year in the 10,000; Esther Erb; McKenzie Melander; Tera Moody; and Amy Van Alstine.
The elite field also includes Karolina Jarzynska of Poland, who has a 15:33 5k PR, Alice Kimutai and Millicent Gathoni Kuria of Kenya and Diane Nukuri Johnson of Burundi, who was eighth at the Boston Marathon and has a sub-16:00 5k PR.
“I don’t think it’ll change much [with Daska out], because there are still so many Ethiopians and Kenyans in the race, and the Americans are pretty strong,” Johnson said. “Mamitu is such a good competitor and always goes after it, but I think it’s still going to be similar. It’s still going to be a crazy race.
“We don’t know how good a shape everyone’s in. Some of them just did Bolder Boulder, and we know they’re in shape. And Emily Chebet just goes after it. You don’t come here and run 15:12 and then just jog around [the next time].”
Erb will sing the national anthem before running the 5k. . . .
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, there will be extra security policies, similar to what runners and specatators experienced at the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge at the Plaza.
Backpacks/coolers/duffle bags will not be permitted at the race venue. No animals, dogs or domestic pets (with the exception of service dogs) will be allowed on-site due to the presence of police dog patrols.
Photo ID is required. . . .
The Freihofer’s Run will also serve as the venue for the USA 5K Race Walk Championships for the men’s and women’s open division, which will begin at 8 and is hosted by USA Track & Field Adirondack Association.
The women’s field includes 2004 Olympian Teresa Vaill, who attempted to tie her sister, Lisa, by holding hands at the finish of the 1997 Gazette Stockade-athon, only to have race officials to rule that Lisa hit the line first.