Ngetich Wins Record-Setting Fourth Litchfield Hills Road Race.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
LITCHFIELD-Eliud Ngetich knew all about the brutal challenge that would await runners at the six-mile mark of the 41st Litchfield Hills Road Race Sunday afternoon, a menacing hill appropriately nicknamed “Gallows Lane.”
And he definitely knew all about the heat and humidity that made merely finishing the race a challenge for many. So. the three-time winner paced himself, knowing he needed to kick it into another gear for Gallows Lane if he wanted to win an unprecedented fourth LHRR title.
And that he did, running away from friend Bernard Lagat at the six-mile mark and crossing the finish line first in a time of 34:37, far off the course record but admirable in such difficult weather.
Ngetich, a 23-year-old Kenyan, ran neck and neck with 22-year-old Lagat, another Kenyan, until the former moved steadily away from his rival as they began their ascent up Gallows Lane, the final test on the 7.1-mile course.
“I had run the course before and I knew the hill was waiting, so I paced myself accordingly even though I did want to go out fast at the start,” said Ngetich, who also won the race 2014, 2015 and 2016. He missed last year’s race because he was in his native country at the time. “I wanted to run the hill nice and steady and then finish strong down the final stretch.”
Meanwhile, Lagat, who admitted he wasn’t ready for hill at the six-mile mark, drifted steadily back and wound up finishing 39 seconds behind Ngetich.
“I just wasn’t ready for that hill,” his runner-up who was running his first LHRR admitted, as he attempted to cool down following the run that was run with temperatures that hovered around 90 degrees, coupled with steep humidity.
The two men broke from a small pack of frontrunners at about the halfway point of the race, and it appeared as though it was going to be an interesting sprint to the finish line for Ngetich and Lagat. But that never materialized, as Gallows Lane once again separated the winner from the also-rans.
As mentioned, Ngetich’s winning time was nowhere near the men’s course record of 33:21, set 20 years ago. Asked if we would return to try for a fifth title, Ngetich said with a smile, “If I’m not doing anything else, I’ll be back next year.”
The first woman across the line was 31-year-old Gladys Kipsoi of Kenya, who finished in 40:06, 20 seconds ahead of 24-year-old Emma Jabet, also of Kenya.
The two women ran the race pretty much by themselves, with Kipsoi beginning her move at about the three-mile mark and holding off Jabet the rest of the way.
“It was very hot today,” said Kipsoi, as she was lying on the grass in the finish area’s holding pen, trying to regain her composure. “It was difficult, but I ran a steady race and had enough. I finished second last year and I wanted to come back because the people here treated me so nice.”
After a number of runner-up finishes last year, Kipsoi has enjoyed a banner year in 2017. She has won the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon, the Fifth Third River Bank 10-K in Grand Rapids, Mi., and the Rite Aid Cleveland 10-K.
“Last year I was second all the time and now I’m finishing first. It feels good.”
Despite the tough running weather conditions, Kipsoi’s time was only 22 seconds off the 10th fastest finish for a woman.
The first Litchfield County male finisher was Brandon Leclair of Goshen, who came in 21st overall in a time of 42:01. The first Litchfield County female across the line was Anne Marie Tuxbury of New Hartford, who finished in a time of 42:59.
The 18th annual Litchfield Hills Children’s Race was run over a 2.3-mile course before the main event, with 13-year-old Anthony Caselas of Northfield finishing first in a time of 13:06. Twelve-year-old Kadija Crapo was the first female across the line in a time of 16:22.
The field for the 7.1-mile race was down somewhat because of the weather, but more some 1,000 runners and walkers toed the starting line. The usual thousands of fans lined the race route, along with a number of bands, to spur on the runners.