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From Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc. - Caroline Rotich enjoyed her somewhat lonely 10-mile run through one of country's most iconic parks Sunday morning as she cruised to a course record while winning the women's race in the 42nd Garden of the Gods 10-Mile Run.

The 34-year-old Kenyan attained her dual goals of winning and breaking the course record and did it largely by running alone. She tried to shadow some of the faster male runners but settled into her own pace shortly into the race.

(Photos by Dionne Randolph)

“We took off and it wasn’t long before I was mostly by myself,” Rotich said. “I could see some of the men ahead of me and wanted to catch them. I tried on the uphill portions but mostly ran by myself.”

Rotich, an internationally acclaimed runner who won the 2015 Boston Marathon, added the Garden of the Gods championship to a resume that includes victories in the Las Vegas Marathon and New York City Half Marathon.

She finished 11th overall, as Jerrell Mock, who recently concluded his outdoor track season at Colorado State University, won the men’s division in 51:17, 11 seconds ahead of Patrick Smyth of Santa Fe, N.M.

Rotich’s time of 57:36 eclipsed the women’s 10-mile course record by 67 seconds, which was set just a year ago by Elvin Kibert of Colorado Springs. Kibert was second behind Rotich, finishing in 1:01:14.

“I really wanted the course record, so I didn’t want to go out too fast because this course is so up and down,” Rotich said. “I like this type of course but it’s really hard on the legs going downhill. Where I lived in Kenya, there weren’t too many hills like this. It’s a really hard course, up and down throughout.

“I thought about trying to run with the lead (men) when we started out, but I knew I couldn’t or I would’ve died quickly. I wanted the course record, so I ran my own race.”

Rotich, who lives in Santa Fe, visited friends in Colorado Springs last winter. She expects to return to defend her title, and said her ultimate goal remains qualifying for the Olympic Marathon.

“I loved running here, and I want to come back (to the Springs),” she said. “This was a fun day.”

Mock echoed that sentiment, especially since it helped to quell his disappointment at not qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Track Championships that concluded Saturday in Eugene, Ore. He qualified for the NCAA Outdoor 10,000 meters as a junior, but battled injuries his senior season.

“This was my first road race,” said the CSU grad. “I wanted to get one in while I was feeling fit, and since this is the peak of road racing season, I might keep going and do some more before I take a break. I want to get into (half marathons), eventually.”

Mock attended high school in Logan, Utah, before relocating to Fort Collins for college. He didn’t know what to expect in Sunday’s race, and simply jumped out front with the leaders at the outset.

“I wasn’t sure who would be here, but I knew we’d have to average about a 5:05 pace to be up front,” he said.

Mock and Smyth, a seven-time All-American distance runner at Notre Dame, battled throughout the race. Smyth, 31, who is eight years older than Mock, was pushing the pace on the downhill portions of the course.

“We were 1-2 for a long time,” Mock said. “I started trying to squeeze the uphills to get away.”

Smyth said he “lost contact” with Mock at about the 6.5-mile mark “on one of the uphills.”

“On each downhill, I’d try to cinch it up,” he said. “(Mock) really hung tough.”

Mock said he “hit a bit of a wall” in miles 8 and 9 but regrouped for the final mile to finish fast. He needed every bit of that late speed to hold off Smyth, who said he runs for the Nike Trail Team and will compete in three weeks in the Marathon de Mont Blanc in France.

“I heard this was a great race and wanted to try it out, especially since it’s not far from Santa Fe,” Smyth said. “It’s more of a road race than trail but nothing is flat and it’s a good test.”
Smyth said he’ll return to the Springs in August to race in the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Finishing third overall was Tesfaalem Mehari, 21, of Colorado Springs in 52:19. He was followed by Alanya Weldemariam, 39, of the Springs in 52:34 and Gebrekidan Abadi, 33, of Aurora in 52:47.

Ben Payne, 36, of Colorado Springs, was sixth in 53:50. After finishing, he was greeted by his wife and 11-month-old son, Palmer.

“This is a fun race, and it’s just two miles from my house,” said Payne, who also ran the Pikes Peak Ascent last August. “I’ve been running more for fun than competition lately, so I had to let the leaders go pretty early. Pacing yourself is important in this race because you can get in trouble early if you go too hard. This is one of the hardest courses with the altitude and the constant up and downs.”

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