- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 17, 2005

Seconds before the starting gun fired to send off more than 2,000 runners at the 20th annual Rockville Rotary Twilighter 8K last night, a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky.

And seconds after Wilson Komen successfully defended his 2004 title, the skies let loose.

It was mayhem at the finish line, almost like being under a waterfall. But not too many of the overheated runners were complaining.

Unfortunately, the torrential rains forced the cancellation of the popular after-race party, which features a live band and plenty of food and refreshments.

For Komen, a 27-year-old Kenyan who lives in Washington, the race was not particularly challenging this year either. However, he did walk away $350 richer for the win. His only complaint was the humidity; the temperature was knocked down quite a bit by another massive thundershower earlier in the afternoon.

“It was very hot,” said Komen, who was 16th in this year’s Boston Marathon and a winner of the Lawyers Have Heart 10K in the District in June. “I’m better in the cooler temperatures.”

Still, he was just one second off last year’s time, ending last night in 23:58.

Elarbi Khattabi, a 38-year-old Moroccan living in Westchester County in New York, tried valiantly through the first half of the race to hang on to Komen. Khattabi started feeling the pace at 2 miles, and Komen gapped him by 15 meters. That’s when the skies became threatening and rain seemed imminent.

Khattabi said he saw the race advertised on the Internet and was looking for a time trial to prove to his Moroccan federation that he could still run fast. He said he was staying with a friend in West Chester, Pa., and drove down to Rockville for the race, which he called a success.

He ended in 24:25 and earned $250. Chris Banks of Alexandria closed hard at the end for third, good for $200 and one place better than last year and the same as he did in 2001.

For the women, Olga Romanova (27:11), Tatyana Chulakh (27:39) and Elena Orlova (28:07), all Russians training in nearby Gaithersburg, swept the top three places. Susannah Kvasnicka of Great Falls was fourth in 28:39, two places ahead of her finish last year.

Jim Hage (27:22) of Kensington and Monica Grillo of Arlington were top masters.

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