A head cold may have affected his breathing a bit but it did not stop Tesfaye Sendeku from running away with Sunday's 27th edition of the Army Ten-Miler.
While Sendeku was well on his way to victory by the second mile, Tezata Dengera bided her time until the last half mile, when she released her kick.
Sendeku, a 27-year-old Ethiopian who trains in Antioch, Calif., toured the 10-mile course from the Pentagon parking lot around the national monuments and back in 47 minutes, 51 seconds. Dengera, 30, a Turkish citizen born in Ethiopia and residing in Washington, completed the distance in 56:35.
"I just went to win the race because I am going to participate in the Baltimore Marathon [in six days]," said Sendeku, who was second here last year some seven seconds slower. "I came to support the Army and the Wounded Warriors program. [Army Ten-Miler] has no prize money. It is more than the prize money. I've very glad to run for the Wounded Warriors."
Augustus Maiyo, a Kenyan-turned-American, and Robert Cheseret, both 28-year-olds with the Army's World Class Athlete Program training at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, chased Sendeku in vain, finishing second and third, respectively, with the same time of 48:21.
Frankc De Almeida and Clodoaldo Da Silva rounded out the top five, leading another strong showing by the Brazilian army team, which also placed 2008 Army champ Reginald Campos Jr. (seventh in 49:11) and Cicero Da Rocha (eighth in 49:21) in the top 10.
By two miles, streaking down Constitution Avenue, Sendeku already was 19 seconds in the lead.
"[Maiyo and I] thought we might catch him later," said Cheseret, third here last year in 48:20. "We went by our own pace. Maybe he was going to slow down later. We saw him the whole way."
Sendeku said he was enjoying the pleasant racing conditions — upper 50s, light breezes and sunny skies- as his margin grew to at least 38 seconds when he passed through the midpoint in 23:24 and the 10 kilometer mark in 29:16.
Maiyo and Cheseret worked together to close some of the gap as the runners returned over the 14th Street Bridge and into the Pentagon parking lot finish.
"We ran together until the last 50 meters," said Maiyo, who outsprinted Cheseret in his debut Army Ten-Miler.
Dengera, a familiar face around Washington racing circles, was more than happy to chill in a pack with her two younger teammates Serkalem Abrha-Biset and Shiferaw Tiringo-Getachew. The three took turns with the lead, passing through five miles in 28:18 and 10 kilometers in 35:14 with just one uninvited guest - Amanda Rice.
Rice, a U.S. Navy lieutenant at Bethesda Naval Hospital, started dropping off the pace around seven miles, just after Denerga ingested an energy gel and then surged. But the 22-year-old Rice got back in the game and hung close to the three-pack until the nine-mile mark. She ended up fourth in 57:17.
Suddenly, the strides of the three Ethiopians quickened and the faces got serious. When Denerga made her move with 800 meters to go, neither Abrha-Biset nor Tiringo-Getachew could respond.
"I'm still tired from the marathon I ran two weeks ago in Montreal," the 24-year-old Abrha-Biset said.
"And I knew that," Dengera countered with a smile. "I ran the first half of the race pretty comfortable. It was according to the plan I made during training."
"At that moment, I was happy I'd be in the top three," the 27-year-old Tiringo-Getachew added.
Some 23,300 runners of the 30,000 entered lined up on a delightful morning, including Peggy Yetman, 43, of Leesburg, who is training for the Cozumel Ironman triathlon in November. The three-time Ironman Kona finisher and mother of two ran 1:00:01 yesterday for top master.