KINGSPORT — Could Kingsport’s favorite road race get any crazier?
While a pre-race rainstorm washed away hopes for a world-record pace, the setback didn’t keep Saturday night’s Indian Path Medical Center and SunTrust Bank Crazy 8s 8K Run from being one of the most exciting races in recent memory.
Deep into the second loop of the storied figure-eight racecourse, Shadrack Kosgei, Ahmed Baday, Alene Reta, Julius Kogo, Kiprotich Kirui and defending champion Simon Cheprot had separated themselves from the field and remained in tight formation.
“That was a fantastic race. We had six guys up on Warpath. We haven’t had that in a long time,” said co-race director Hank Brown.
Kosgei, a Kenyan whose third-place finish in the 2001 Crazy 8s remains the fourth fastest on record, battled old rival Reta and fierce humidity to claim the $5,000 Gastroenterology Associates Dash for the Gold.
Belainesh Zemedkun of Ethiopia collected the women’s championship, in a time of 25:37, outrunning Kenyan Alice Timbilili, who finished second at 25:42.
In the men’s race, the 25-year-old Kosgei clocked a 22:27 when he broke the winning tape in front of the screaming crowd at J. Fred Johnson Stadium. It was quite a bit slower than the 22:06 he clocked chasing Reta on a world-record pace in 2001.
Racing conditions were far more favorable that year, when Reta won the championship one second shy of Peter Githuka’s world record.
The drenching deluge that hit less than an hour from Saturday night’s starting gun turned the streets of Kingsport into a virtual sauna by race time.
“It was a good race, but it was very extreme circumstances. It was so humid,” said Kosgei, who also finished third in the 2004 Crazy 8s. “We tried to push it, but it was really hard. Today, I was in better shape than in 2001. But not the weather.”
By the turn on Memorial Boulevard, Kogo, Kirui and Cheprot had finally succumbed to the humidity. Reta and Kosgei continued to battle in front with Baday staying tight enough to make trouble for both of them.
“When they turned the corner on Memorial and we were down to three. I will say, I called Shadrack at that point. I don’t know why. I just had a feeling,” Brown said. “Alene looked good. Ahmed looked good.
“But I had a feeling this was Shadrack’s night. And when we came into the stadium, there he was.”
It wasn’t a bad night for Baday, either. The 36-year-old Moroccan made his move and finished second, clocking a 22:31. Reta, runner-up in last year’s Crazy 8s, came in third at 22:38.
Reta had hoped for a better time — perhaps even another run at the world record. But in the crush of the early race, a runner stepped on the back of his shoe. After faltering and pausing to fix his shoe, Reta opened up for 75 meters to rejoin the leaders. That untimely burst, plus the oppressive humidity, took a toll at the end of the race.
“Otherwise, I may have run a better time. I am sorry,” the 28-year-old Ethiopian said.
Kogo was fourth at 33:39 and Kirui fifth at 22:49. Cheprot , who won last year’s race in a time of 22:21, finished sixth at 23:02. Joseph Boit took seventh (23:03) and Martin Fagan came in eighth (23:34).
In the women’s elite race, Tigist Tufa finished third at 26:16, and Crazy 8s veteran Alemtsehay Misganaw took fourth (26:53). Aliyu Aziza was fifth (27:01), Teyba Naser sixth (27:29), Irene Limika seventh (27:30) and Dorota Gruca eighth (27:48).