Simon Ndirangu crosses the finish line to win the Indian Path Medical Center & SunTrust Bank Crazy 8’s 8K Run men’s title Saturday night in Kingsport. Photo by Ned Jilton II.
KINGSPORT - The Indian Path Medical Center & SunTrust Bank Crazy 8's 8K Run bills itself as "The World's Fastest 8K."
When Simon Ndirangu crossed the finish line inside J. Fred Johnson Stadium on Saturday night, the result was exactly as advertised.
While not fast enough to unseat Peter Githuka's world record, Ndirangu's 22:16 kept the Crazy 8's in world-class company.
"I think that's the fastest time in the world this year for an 8K. We'll take it," said Hank Brown, co-race director and elite athlete recruiter for the Crazy 8's.
In the women's race, diminutive Olga Kimaiyo clocked a 25:52 to edge out defending champion Luminita Talpos and collect the Blue Ridge OB/Gyn $5,000 Women's Dash for the Gold.
Ndirangu had his heart set on coming in under Githuka's 1996 time of 22:03 and collecting the Regional Eye Center $10,008 World Record Bonus. He still believes he can do it on the Crazy 8's course and said he intended to attempt it again next year.
"I don't say about anybody else. But for me I think this world record was set by a human being like me. So there's no reason I cannot make it," said Ndirangu, who collected $5,000 Dash for the Gold bonus sponsored by Gastroenterology Associates.
"I want to break this record."
One of the things that made Saturday night's race so great was that Ndirangu evidently wasn't the only one who wanted it. The year's field boasted 69 elite runners, the largest number in the history of the Crazy 8's.
The leaders were 10 seconds ahead of world-record pace at mile one, a huge pack paced at that time by Nicholas Kamakya . By mile two, after the grueling "Peter Githuka Hill," that lead had lost seven seconds.
By the third mile, Ndirangu, Kamakya, Linus Maiyo and Boaz Cheboiywo put significant distance between themselves and the rest of the field but were three seconds off the needed pace. On the fourth mile, Ndirangu made his move after the group made the turn at McDonalds and headed down Warpath Lane.
"When the race break, from there to four kilometers, those guys were setting a very good pace. I decided I wouldn't go in front of them ... I'd just stay behind them," the 21-year-old Kenyan said. "When I saw the pace was slowing down, I tried to push but didn't make it."
For Brown, it was one of the most interesting Crazy 8's in recent memory.
"It was a huge pack at first. You could see the way they were running the race that they were going for the record, which is refreshing. We haven't seen that in the last several years," Brown said.
"They were ahead a long time then gradually, they give it back, which is the way this course runs.
"Really, all you can hope for is at mile four to have a chance. We had a bit of a chance and (Ndirangu) made up some ground."
Kenyans were prominent among the leaders, but Morocco made its mark. Karim El Mabchour wrapped up his second consecutive Crazy 8's runner-up finish in as many years, clocking in at 22:26.
"This year was very tough, like 30 Kenyans," El Mabchour said. "I'm coming to win. But second place is good for me."
Maiyo finished third with 22:28, followed by Cheboiywo in fourth at 22:30. Peter Kamais (22:42) and Kamakya (22:49) were fifth and sixth, respectively, followed by Ethiopian Alene Emere Reta (22:57) and Solomon Molla (22:58).
Kimaiyo's winning time failed to eclipse the 2002 record set by Morocco's Asmae Legzhaoui (24:28), putting the Regional Eye Center's $10,008 bonus out of reach for yet another year.
Yimenashu Taye was the third elite women's finisher, clocking 26:19. Neriah Asiba was fourth (26:22) followed by Alemtsehay Misganaw (26:32), Magdalene Mukunzi (26:33), Angelina Mutuku (26:59) and Marie Busienei (27:12).