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James Ngandu, Monicah Ngige pace Buffalo Subaru 4-Mile Chase

James Ngandu saw the car attempting to pull into the intersection of Ferry Street and Delaware Avenue, and he heard the shouts of people telling the car not to move. Ngandu kept running.

A few blocks later, still somewhere in the second mile of the Buffalo Subaru 4-Mile Chase, Ngandu saw a man on a bicycle who cut into his path, only a few yards ahead of him.

Ngandu kept running. As he widened his lead in the race Friday evening, he wasn’t going to let anything break his focus.

“Things like that happen, and I’m glad the (race officials) in the lead car reacted,” Ngandu said. “That would have been terrible. It could have slowed us, or it could have been worse than slowing us down.

“If you get distracted by something, though, you can lose the race. You’ve got to to maintain your focus. You have to put your eyes to the goal.”

Ngandu, a native of Kenya and a former Division II All-American at Tiffin (Ohio) University, won the men’s division of the Chase in 18 minutes, 14 seconds, ahead of Mourad Marofit of Floral Park, N.Y. (18:32)

Monicah Ngige won the women’s 4-mile race in 20:11, ahead of Iveen Chepkemoi (20:31).

Ngige also won the women’s Subaru 4-mile Chase in 2016 and 2017, and was third in 2015.

She had the race circled on her calendar for this year.

“I like Buffalo, I like this race, and I like New York,” said Ngige, a Kenyan who lives in Lansing, Mich. “It’s my pleasure to come here. There are good people here, welcoming people, and the race organizers, and the people who cheer, they’re all very friendly.”

Ngandu and Ngige each won $1,000 for winning the open divisions.

Ngandu ran the Subaru 4-Mile Chase for the first time in Buffalo, and put it on his race calendar as a matter of convenience.

“I started my running season two months ago, and I’ll run until mid-August,” said Ngandu, who recently completed a master’s degree in business administration at Tiffin University. “This was one of the races I saw and it was close, because I live in Ohio and it was only a few hours away. So, it was close to me, and that’s why I came.”

Ngandu was part of a four-runner group that included Marofit, Raymond Magut (third, 18:42) Benson Kiema (fifth, 19:29) and Peterson Muthoni (fourth, 19:09). That group completed the first mile in less than 4:30.

Ngandu and Marofit broke from the lead pack in the second mile, and after race officials prevented the car from crossing into the Delaware-Ferry intersection, Ngandu opened his lead.

Ngandu remained laser-focused for the remainder of the race, forgoing cups of water at each hydration station, and only occasionally at the watch on his left wrist during the final two miles.

The flat course that wound through the Elmwood Village and Mid-City neighborhoods was to Ngandu’s liking, and helped his strategy.

“It’s flat, but there’s some little climbs, and you can be able to push the pace a little bit, and try to outsmart or outsprint your opponents,” Ngandu said. “It’s a great course. I like it. It’s a fast course.”

Ngige ran in her fourth Subaru 4-Mile Chase, and like Ngandu, relished running the flat, fast course, even in stifling humidity.

“It was probably about three miles where I was feeling really comfortable, and I was ready to go,” said Ngige, who travels across the country to run road races. “It’s a cool course, and it was very fast.

“It’s good to run this race, and one thing about this race, you can aim for a course record or a personal record. And it’s a race you don’t give up in. Sometimes, you feel fatigued and tired, but you keep moving.”

Chris Muldoon of Amherst was the top men’s finisher from Western New York (20:38), and Fiona Danieu of East Aurora was the top women’s finisher from Western New York (23:56).

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