Ngetich wins record 5th Litchfield HIlls Road Race title
LITCHFIELD – Just call him, `The Dominator’, the Litchfield Hills Road Race’s GOAT.
“I feel like this is my town,” said Kenya’s Eliud “Heldy” Ngetich after the 43rd running of the Northwest Corner’s great race Sunday.
He should because the LHRR is certainly his race after another impressive performance gave him a record fifth title in six appearances in the fabled race. Ngetich dusted the field beating his closest competitor Tarika Demelash Abe, also of Kenya by nine seconds and about 30 meters with a time of 34:21.
Dan Schumacher, 22 of Goshen, was the top local finisher placing 16th (38:22).
Catherine Mwanzau, 19 of Kenya took the women’s race, also in overpowering fashion with a 35-second victory over Feyne Gudeto Gemela of Ethiopia with a time of 38:11. Her winning time set a new women's course record obliterating Patty Catalano's time of 38:27 set 38 years ago in 1981.
The 25-year-old Ngetich added another victory to previous wins 2013 – 2015 and 2017. No other LHRR winner has more than three titles. Under cloudless deep blue sky with temperatures over 80, His winning time was well off the LHRR record of 33:17 set in 2018 by Linus Kiplogat.
Ngetich led from start to finish. There was no big kick because there was no need for one. He ran fast, he ran steady and he pulled away.
“I ran my own race,” he said. “I knew I could win because I have had good training. “
Ngetich has won two of the three races he has entered this year, the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama and a 5K in Georgia. He finished third in the Pittsburg Marathon. He has been doing high altitude training and is running about 120 miles a week.
All of which had him primed to dismiss his competition. After running in a pack of a half a dozen runners for the first three miles, Negetich, always in front, cut the pack to three with a 4:51 pace. But, DemelashAbe and Ugresa Kedirfiga could not keep up the pace in the second half of the race.
By the time Ngetich hit torturous Gallows Lane at the six-mile mark, he had put the race away building up a 15- second lead.
“I knew the kind of pace that I needed and I knew if I set that pace I would be okay,” said Ngetich. “I was in control and my body felt good. I switched the pace every mile.’
There were no concerns with Gallows which has ruined a lot of dreams in the history of the race.
“By the time I hit the hill I knew that all I had to do was hang on, my body was in good shaped,” said Ngetich. “This feels good. These are really great people and I want to make them proud.”
Mwanzau followed Ngetich’s lead in her treatment of the competition. She took the lead at the three-mile mark and then took off.
“I decided to push very hard,” said Mwanzau through an interpreter.
Mwanzau has taken American by storm. The LHRR was fourth race in the U.S. and she has won all four, capturing a 10K in Huntsville, Alabama while being the first woman there to crack 33 minutes (32:50), and winning the 10K Orange Classic in Middletown, N.Y.
On June 6, Mwanzau ran a mile for the first time in her career in the Monument Mile in Indianapolis and won with a time of 4:42.
Former Berkshire League champion Annmarie Tuxbury was the top local finisher, placing fifth with a time of 41:25.
“I ran a minute and a half faster than I ever raced here,” said Tuxbury. “(The leaders) went out so fast, I thought they were flying. I thought they would come back to the pack but they didn’t.”