- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001

A pair of quick 18-year-old Kenyan runners each ran away with $2,400 in the fourth edition of the Microsoft-USO Defenders Ten-Mile Run yesterday at the Pentagon in Arlington.
One of them Martha Komu smashed the women's event record by 66 seconds in 55 minutes, 40 seconds, leading the entire race through Arlington and Washington.
The other Kenyan Johnson Muiruri missed the event record of 48:14 by two seconds.
Had it not been so windy, the record field of 2,400 entrants would have enjoyed perfect racing conditions. But the wind did not seem to bother Muiruri or Komu, both running in their first 10-mile races.
The Kenyan men had won all three previous runnings of Defenders, which featured $10,000 in prize money yesterday, and the Kenyan women had victories here in 1998 and 1999.
Muiruri was in town last weekend for the Sallie Mae 10K, placing a distant second to his training partner from East Brunswick, N.J., Julius Nderitu. With Nderitu racing elsewhere, Muiruri would be second to none yesterday.
"The route was good," Muiruri said. "It has slopes and uphills and downhills like where I train."
The lead pack early in the race included four Kenyans, Rockville-based Russian Igor Osmak and Chris Graff of Washington. They proceeded over the Memorial Bridge and past the Kennedy Center, where they U-turned near the three-mile point in 14:28.
The runners then fought their way into a stiff headwind down Independence Avenue all the way to the base of Capitol Hill. The pack, down to five runners by five miles, hit the midway mark near the Smithsonian at 24:17.
Osmak dropped off the pace and out of the race after six miles and it was just Graff and three Kenyans: Muiruri, his training partner Wilson Kagiri and Paul Mwang from Ossining, N.Y., who was eighth here in 1999.
Muiruri surged up the ramp onto the 14th Street Bridge just before the seven-mile mark, opening a small gap before his three competitors quickly drew closer.
Muiruri waited patiently until after the bridge in Crystal City, at the nine-mile mark. He surged and put a 10-meter gap on Graff with 1,200 meters to go, with Kagiri and Mwang chasing Graff.
"I figured I'd move with the leader and assure myself one of the first two spots," said Graff, the first American finisher at the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler last month in 47:22.
Graff, fighting the affects of allergies, could not close the gap. Muiruri did one last surge before he hit the tape, running a 4:43 last mile. Graff ended in 48:22.
Kagiri and Mwang clocked 48:30 and 48:47, respectively, while Baltimore-based Moroccan Abel Haki, winner of the Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville on April 29, was fifth in 49:27.
There was little drama in the women's race, however. Komu made sure of that. She was ahead by 18 seconds at three miles 16:10 and 21 seconds by five miles 27:23. Anna Pichrtova, a 27-year-old Czech training in Waynesboro, Va., narrowed the gap to 15 seconds by the end as Komu tired.
"I just couldn't catch her," said Pichrtova, a ski instructor who placed seventh in the World Championships in mountain running last September in Germany. "I was closing but in the last mile, [Komu] saw me and she took off."
Pichrtova (55:55) was second and 22-year-old Alison Holinka (56:17) of Williamsburg was third, the same positions they were at the Sallie Mae last Sunday. Both also were under the event record of 56:46 set in 1999 by Kenyan Margaret Kagiri.


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