In most long-distance road races, there comes a time where someone looks around and decides to burst ahead of the competition. The move usually results in victory.
In Friday’s Subaru Buffalo 4 Mile Chase, it happened twice. Silas Kipruto of Kenya broke away from a couple of other runners with less than a mile to go and went on to win the men’s race by eight seconds.
On the women’s side, Monica Ngige of Kenya pulled away from the pack just past the halfway point, and had a comfortable 32-second victory. Both earned $1,000 for their efforts in the 36th annual race.
Kipruto was in a pack of two other runners – Eulid Ngetich and Robert Letting – after two miles, as they reached that distance in 9 minutes, 11 seconds. The trio stayed together through three miles (13:47), but it was Kipruto that had more in the gas tank at that point. He ran the last mile in 4:26 to finish in an official time of 18:13. That was eight seconds ahead of Ngetich and 21 ahead of Letting.
“My plan was to stay up with those guys, and then at three miles try to push it,” Kipruto said. “I had been doing some speedwork lately.”
Kipruto has been running well this summer. He finished seventh in the Boilermaker Run in Utica last week, a 15-kilometer event (9.3 miles) that attracts a good international field. Kipruto set a personal best at that distance with a time of 44:34.
“I pushed in that race, and my back started to hurt,” he said.
Temperatures were in the high 70s for Friday’s race, which was a little warm for Kipruto.
“Some days I run in the morning, but this was a bit hot,” he said. “I like the course, though. It’s a very nice course.”
The 31-year-old specializes in longer events than 4 miles. He ran a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in a world-class time of 59:39 in 2010.
In the women’s race, Ngige was the class of the field. She finished in 20:37, ahead of Gladys Kipsol (21:09) and Susan Jerotich (21:15).
“There was a big wind on Summer Street, but I kept pushing,” Ngige said. “I pushed ahead until I finished.”
The win was a step up for Ngige, who finished third here in 2015.
“The course is beautiful,” she said. “It was hot and humid, so I was just hoping to be in the top three.”
Ngige was coming off a fourth-place showing at the Boilermaker. The winner of that race in Utica was Cynthia Limo, who set a course record at the Subaru Buffalo Chase in 2014.
Among Americans, Juris Silenieks of Pittsburgh was the winner of the men’s division. He finished in 19:20, well ahead of Jay List of Amherst (21:21) and Seamus Degan of Buffalo (21:33).
“It’s always a challenge. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Silenieks said. “I don’t know if I can ever run 18:13, but I’m going to keep trying.”
Silenieks is used to winning. He was part of the Syracuse University cross-country team that won a national championship last fall.
“I traveled with the team. I was an alternate and just missed out running at nationals,” said Silenieks, who was invited up to run the Subaru race by some friends in the Buffalo area. “Just to be a part of it was great. We finished 13th my freshman year, and we had a terrible year. ... To come from that to winning nationals was incredible.
“We came back home and had so much more support than you ever would have thought.”
The women’s winner among Americans was Laurel Leone of Minoa (22:15). She beat out Chelsea Ley of Charlottesville, Va. (23:25) and Kim Vona of Angola (23:31).
The top male runners were briefly joined on Elmwood Avenue by an ambulance on an emergency call, which is believed to be a first for this race. The ambulance passed the runners without incident, and the race was not affected.
The Subaru Chase is designed to give local runners the chance to compete against some top athletes from around the world. The visitors never fail to leave an impression.
“Oh, man, they are awesome,” Paul Pulinski of Hamburg said. “There’s no comparison. I was probably on my third mile when they were done. It’s humbling.”