By Seth Roberts
on March 22, 2014
Askale Merachi of Ethiopia set a women’s course record Saturday at the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Road Race. Her time of 33:14 was 3 seconds faster than Leslie Lehane’s 1991 record.
In the men’s race, 35-year-old Ethiopian Menistu Nebsi beat fellow countryman Ayele Feyisa by 5 seconds to win the 10k road race in 29:42.
Five minutes before the start of the race, St. Patrick opened up blue skies and stopped the rain for the 6800 starters on an early spring day. A pack of 9 runners, including winner Nebsi, checked out the competition in a relaxed 4:55 first mile.
A look at the start of the 2014 Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road raceA look at some of the runners taking off at the start of the 2014 Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road Race.
By mile three, the pack had been reduced to 5 runners. As they turned uphill onto Homestead Avenue, Nebsi and Feyisa started to pull away and it became a two-man race. On the steep downhill toward mile 5, Nebsi started to gain a few steps on his training partner. Nebsi continued to push unchallenged to the finish.
Ethiopian Diriba Degafa passed 2011 winner Tesfaye Assefi, also from Ethiopia, over the last mile to claim third place in a time of 29:59. Amos Sang, a Kenyan who is living in Springfield, was the 5th man to cross the finish line with a time of 31:27.
Kenyan Alice Kamunya took off at a blistering pace and was just in back of the lead pack of men at the first mile. She held the lead until the 3-mile mark, when 27-year-old Merachi caught her on Homestead Avenue. Merachi, who had placed 12th in last Sunday’s New York City Half Marathon in a time of 1:12, was able to push the pace in the second half of the race to set the course record. She finished 15 seconds ahead of second place finisher, Kamunya. The first two women placed 14th and 15th overall.
Megan Hogan of Saratoga Springs, New York, finished in third place in a time of 33:40. Hogan was last year’s runner-up. Longmeadow’s Kara Ryczek and Emily Bryans of Delanson, N.Y., finished fourth and fifth in times of 36:37 and 38:04.
The prestigious first Irish American finishers were Kate McClellan of Norwood, Mass., and Thomas O’Grady of Latham, N.Y. Their times were 46:40 and 33:07 respectively.
The top Holyoke runners were Joni Beauvais and Joseph Hodgkins in 41:17 and 36:57. The top high school runners were Blake Croteau of Westfield and Maggie McAndrew of Holyoke with times of 32:07 and 42:08.
Despite the 6800 registered runners, only 5933 finished the race, just short of the record 6004 finishers in 2012. The race is Western Massachusetts’ largest and rumor has it there will be a 5k race at the Ashley Reservoir in September marking the halfway point to St. Patrick’s Day.