It took two passes and a big final kick in the face of some recent and unpleasant history, but John Korir was all smiles at the end of Sunday’s ING Bay to Breakers.
The 32-year-old Kenyan entered the final 500 meters of the 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) race with Ridouane Harroufi at his heels and women’s leader Lineth Chepkurui ahead after the elite females started the race with a 4-minute, 40-second cushion. Korir passed Chepkurui, then saw Harroufi surge ahead of him briefly on the Great Highway before finding the energy for one last sprint to regain the lead. He broke the tape in 34 minutes, 24 seconds to pocket $32,000 ($25,000 for the overall title and $7,000 for the men’s crown). It was Korir’s second straight win in the men’s event, but first overall title after he was unable to run down women’s winner Edna Kiplagat in last year’s race.
“Today it was great weather and I woke up feeling strong and feeling like I could do it,” Korir said. “I’m so happy. I don’t believe it.”
Korir’s showdown with Harroufi down the final stretch was eerily similar to the scenario at the Bloomsday 12K two weeks ago in Spokane, Wash. There, Korir maintained a narrow advantage over Harroufi throughout the majority of the race until the Moroccan pushed past him with a final sprint to finish second, one spot ahead of Korir. Sunday, Harroufi started his kick with about 200 meters left, but Korir quickly responded with a push of his own to quickly regain the lead and break the tape. Harroufi crossed the line in 34:28. “I should have started my kick a little later, like with 100 meters left,” said Harroufi, who won $5,000 for being the first man to reach the top of the Hayes Street Hill. “But I’m not surprised he came back. Korir is always strong.”
Steve Sundell of Redwood City had the best showing of any Bay Area man, finishing in seventh place (36:21). The 26-year-old had never run the course before Sunday, but drove up the infamous Hayes Street Hill in his car Saturday for a preview.
“I thought right away ‘[The hill] is going to be an issue,’” Sundell said. “It was tough. This race is really hilly and definitely a unique experience.”