Choge, Diribe win AACR Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia

This historic race returned for its 39th year with live bands, fanfare and runners getting back to fall marathon season

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)  Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon took over “The City of Brotherly Love” this weekend with crowds of excitement as 18,000 runners ran through a revamped scenic course.  The half marathon was full of impressive results with Kenya’s Augustine Choge powering through most of the 13.1 miles alone, to win the men’s division. The 29-year-old broke the finish-line tape in front of the city’s iconic Art Museum in a blistering one hour, three minutes, and 25 seconds.

For Choge, his first attempt at the half marathon was all about participation. “Even though I ran most of it alone, I felt connected to all of the people in this beautiful city who came out to cheer for me and other runners,” he said. “I felt good. This was my first time racing this distance and I think it is a good first step.” Despite covering the course at an impressive 4:51 per mile, Choge had enough energy at the finish to greet fans, giving them high fives and stopping to take photos with them. “I am proud of them,” he said of the spectators. “They encouraged me. Without them here, I could not run as fast by myself.”

Choge’s only rival was fellow Kenyan Stephen Sambu who was wearing the number one bib. Sambu ran stride-for-stride with Choge until the 10K mark (reached at 30:00), when Choge made his move, leaving Sambu in his wake. Sambu eventually dropped out of the race.

Second place in the men’s division went to American Scott Smith of Flagstaff, Arizona. Smith, who has already won a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series race in San Diego, said afterwards that he wanted to win in Philadelphia. “I’m a bit disappointed in not winning, but I’m pleased with second.” Smith’s time in Philadelphia on Sunday was 1:05:03. “The course was great,” he admitted. “It was a bit hilly and today was humid, but Philadelphia’s a great city. I love it here.”

Third place also went to an American: Jeffery Eggleston. The Boulder, Colorado resident clocked 1:05:19 for the 13.1 miles that wound throughout the most-scenic parts of Philadelphia.

The women’s half marathon was a much closer affair with Ethiopia’s Buze Diribe coming through the tape in 1:11:50. Her nearest rival was American Neely Spence Gracey of Boulder, Colorado who was 17 seconds behind (1:12:08). Third place went to Frances Koons (1:15:31).

Diribe was especially pleased with her performance on Sunday, improving her personal best by over a full minute. “I could not be happier,” she said shortly after her triumphant finish. “I think the course was fast and it was much fun.”

For Spence Gracey, the post-race reaction was more grounded. “Today was all about coming out here to get ready for the New York City [Marathon] in November and I was able to do that.” She revealed, “I got exactly what I needed here, to stay healthy for the next 7 weeks and in great shape.” Spence Gracey said. “You know, Rock ‘n’ Roll always puts on a great show and today was no exception. I loved the bands and I loved the course. It’s always a pleasure and honor to run in these races.”

Elite runners aside, thousands of other participants took to the streets of Philadelphia on Sunday to participate in the race. Conditions were ideal for the ultimate kick off to the fall marathon season and today was no exception. Temperatures were in the low 70s and partly cloudy skies kept runners cool and happy. Rock ‘n’ Roll races always come with plenty of entertaining bands and cheer zones. On Sunday, many of the musicians wore Philly Eagles jerseys and there were several Rocky sightings along the course, which winds around the beautiful Schuylkill River along Kelly and West River Drives and ends at the foot of the Art Museum. Alternative music band Guster performed at the finish-line festival and gave the Philadelphia runners and spectators a good reason to dance at the end of their race.

For more information about AACR Rock ‘n’ Roll, please visit RunRocknRoll.com/Philadelphia.

2016 Rock n Roll Philadelphia 5K & Half Marathon Philadelphia, PA Sept 17-18, 2016 Photo: KevinMorris@PhotoRun victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.net