Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia won the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon Sunday morning, breaking the course record set just last year.
Desisa’s time of 1:00:34 beat the 1:01:44 set in 2012 by Allan Kiprono.
A third-place finish in the half marathon gave Stephen Sambu of Kenya the BAA Distance Medley title. His cumulative lead over Kiprono through the first two races – the medley also includes a 5K in April and a 10K in June – was 26 seconds, and he did more than enough to keep the lead and win the overall title.
On the women’s side, New Zealand native Kim Smith set an event record of her own en route to winning her second straight BAA Half Marathon, and she also clinched her second straight Distance Medley title.
The Providence resident finished in 1:09:14, easily beating the previous event record of 1:10:52. Smith and Sambu each won $100,000 for their Distance Medley victories.
“My coach told me to try and run as easy as I could until 10 miles,” Smith said. “I kind of went out hard, and then I decided if I could just get rid of them early, there would be less pressure for that $100,000 … I stayed a pretty decent pace and I just dropped them.
“The last four or five miles I felt like I was running within myself in kind of an easy area … I haven’t raced since the BAA 10k [because] I was injured, so this was my first race so I probably got a little excited and little bit too fast at the start, but it worked out well in the end.”
In the men’s race, a large pack stuck together for the early stages, and six runners went through the 10k mark in 28:17. Kenyan Lani Rutto was leading, while Desisa hung right with him along with Sambu and Kenyans Daniel Salel, Sam Chelanga, and Allan Kiprono.
Rutto lost his lead and began to fall back by the 8-mile mark, and by the time the pack went through 10 miles, Kiprono had fallen back as well, leaving the foursome of Salel, Sambu, Desisa, and Chelanga battling for the final 3.1 miles.
As the runners rounded Franklin Park and entered White Stadium, it became clear Desisa was going to win as he opened a strong lead in the final mile.
“I [followed] the others [for] most of time, then after 10 miles I [pushed] and I [came] through [the finish],” he said after the race. “When we arrived here [at the stadium] nobody followed me; they were very tired.”
Salel and Sambu finished second and third, followed by Chelanga and Rutto. All of the runners in the top-5 broke the previous course record.
Smith, on the other hand, won the women’s title by dominating the second half of the race. She broke away from Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia just before the 7-mile mark, increasing her lead to over 34 seconds by the time she hit 9 miles. She beat Kiros by 49 seconds. Alice Kimutai of Kenya took third, with Kristen Fryburg-Zaitz of Broomfield, Colo., fourth, and Millicent Kuria of Kenya fifth.
Smith held an 11-second advantage over Kuria in the Distance Medley standings going into Sunday’s race. Kuria was the only woman within 2:30 of Smith in the cumulative time.
In the wheelchair division, Tony Nogueria of New Jersey won his eighth BAA Half Marathon men’s title in a time of 55:06. Carla Trodella of Massachusetts won the women’s title with a 2:12:25.
Desisa said he appreciates the support he has gotten in his two major Boston victories, and has enjoyed the time he has spent competing here. In a gesture of goodwill following the Boston Marathon bombings, Desisa gave his Marathon winner’s medal back to the city when he ran the 10K in June.
“I like Boston [and] the people of Boston,” he said. “And I am considering myself now one of the people of Boston.”