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Ndirangu wins LHRR on the Gallows for the men. Mejdoub wins close woman's contest. Story by John Torsiello

POSTED June 10, 2012
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Simon Ndirangu came to Litchfield Sunday to test himself against the famed Gallows Lane Hill and to see just how fit he was after running only one competitive race since January.

Ndirangu left town having passed both tests, as he overcame fellow Kenyan Henry Rutto just past the six-mile mark, raced up Gallows Lane Hill without breaking stride, and cruised to a win in the 36th running of the 7.1-mile Litchfield Hills Road Race.

The 26-year-old’s time on a hot and humid day was a strong 34:20, seven seconds ahead of runner-up Samuel Ndereba, another Kenyan, and 10 seconds ahead of Rutto, who led for much of the race before faltering and surrendering his lead at the bottom of Gallows Hill.

“I was told by other runners that the hill at the end would test you and you would have to push hard to get through it,” said Ndriangu, who was second in the Cleveland Ride Aid 10-K and third in the Ottawa 10-K early this year. He was a bronze medalist at the 2005 World University Games in the 5,000-meter run. “I put it in my head at the start that I would have to be ready for it. As I approached the hill I took the lead and felt good during the last portion of the course.”

Ndriangu called the Litchfield race a good preparation for a 10-K he plans to run in Boston in two weeks. He pocketed $1,000 for finishing first Sunday.

Rutto, 26, and coming off a win in the Broad Street 10-Miler in Philadelphia, set a sterling initial pace as he posted a 4:18 first mile. He built up a small advantage through the first four miles before the lead pack started to reel him in. He once again built a lead between miles five and six on a flat stretch of Alain White Road.

But Ndriangu kicked it in and moved closer to his opponent and made his winning move just below Gallows Lane Hill. Rutto and the 35-year-old Ndereba tried to keep pace but Ndriangu had too much left in the tank and he cruised down West Street to the applause of hundreds that lined the final several hundred yards.

Said Rutto, “I tried to get a big lead before the hill but I couldn’t. My plan was to go out fast and see what happened, and I tried to catch him at the end but I couldn’t. It was a good race for me though, because I wanted to test my fitness.”

Ndriangu’s winning time was well off the sizzling record pace set by Godfrey Kiprotich (33:31) in 1997.

The women’s race was a tight affair between Morocco’s diminutive Malika Mejdoub and Hinut Beyene of Ethiopia. The two stayed neck and neck for most of the race until the Moroccan was able to put a kick on during the last 200 yards and finish three seconds ahead of her rival in a time of 41:17.8.

It was Mejdoub’s second win in Litchfield, having won here in 2010. She is trained and managed by Torrington’s Jonny Camacho, himself a noted distance runner who competed in Sunday’s race.

Mejdoub will represent her country at the London Summer Olympics in the marathon. She has enjoyed a stellar 2012 season, posting a personal best 2:39.31 in winning the women’s title at the Pittsburgh Marathon, while also capturing the female titles at the Mississippi Blues Marathon, the Hollywood Half Marathon, the Ukrop 10-K, and the Red Hook 5-K, and finishing second at the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.

“I feel like I am reaching my peak right now,” said the winner. “My goal at the Olympics is to get my time down and run a personal best, which I’m training hard to do.”

On Sunday’s race she said, “We were together the whole way before I was able to get past her at the end. I know the course and I like it because it tests you, especially the hill at the end. I always put this race on my schedule at the start of the year.”

The 30-year-old also finished third at Litchfield in 2009 and fourth last year. Mejdoub also picked up $1,000 for finishing first. Her winning time was also well off the women’s record of 38:27 set by Patti Catalano way back in 1981.

Over 1,000 runners took part in the race, while several thousand watched and bands played along the sidelines.

Television reality star Kate Gosselin caused a bit of a stir when she showed up to run in the main race, while several of her children ran in the two-mile run that preceding the 7.1 mile event. Gosselin is an avid runner and has competed in a number of road races around the country.

Kevin Curley, 31, was the first Litchfield County male finisher, placing 10th in a time of 38:53.6. Woodbury’s Anna Haines, 29, was the first female county runner to cross the finish line, coming in 114th in a time of 49:25.8.

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