The weather was warm and sunny for the 41st Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg, Va. on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Between the 10 mile run, 4 mile run and 4 mile walk, there were more than 3,400 finishers, including Julius Kogo, with a time of 48:20 for his third consecutive win in the Virginia 10 Miler.
Kogo was one of many elite runners from around the world who ran in the 10 Miler and 4 Mile Run. Since the Virginia 10 Miler was chosen by the Road Runners Club of America as the 2014 RRCA National Championship, Kogo is also the Road Runner Club of America’s national 10 miler champion.
Finishing just behind Kogo was his training partner, Cleophas Ngetich with a time of 48:21. Rounding out the top five male finishers were Isaac Mukundi Mwangi with a time of 48:32, Seraw Kebede with a time of 49:02 and Yonas Mebrahtu with a time of 49:02.
On the women’s side, Lillian Maritta took top honors with a time of 54:45. Maritta was a last-minute replacement for last year’s Virginia 10 Miler women’s champion, Jane Murage. Sophy Jephchirchir finished second for the women with a time of 55:03. Rounding out the top five female finishers were Etaferahu Temesgen with a time of 55:36, Buze Diriba with a time of 56:32 and top American female finisher Kara Foster with a time of 56:44.
Elite runners took top honors across the board, but there were also many local runners participating in the 10 Miler who ran, walked and even limped their way to the finish line. Among the runners was 86-year-old Bill Draper, the only person who has competed in all 41 Virginia 10 Miler events. Draper, a Korean war veteran, finished with a time of 3:35:09 to the applause of the waiting crowd.
Runner Will Christian was the top American in the 10 Miler, finishing with a time of 51:51 for 11th place overall and first in his age group. The top youth finisher was 15-year-old Charles Ranson from Appomattox with a time of 57:56.
In addition to overall winners, awards were given in the over 40 Masters, over 50 Grand Masters and over 60 Great Grand Masters categories. Local runner Jeff Harrington took the Mens Masters title with a time of 58:58. Amy Cernava took the Women’s Masters title with a time of 1:11:02.
In the Grand Masters category, Mike Bailey took the men’s top honor with a time of 1:06:23, while Robin Steckley took the women’s top honor with a time of 1:16:31. Mark Whisler won the men’s Great Grand Masters category with a time of 1:13:03, while Amy Rockhill won the women’s Great Grand Masters with a time of 1:33:14.
In all, 1358 runners finished the 10 Miler, 1265 runners finished the 4 Mile Run and 783 finished the 4 Mile Walk. In the 4 Mile Run, Abdi Ali Gelchu finished first with a time of 18:57. The top female finisher was Genet Gashie Beyne with a time of 21:35.
The running color guard, led by local Vietnam veteran Steve Bozeman, honored Major Mike Donoghue, by wearing his number, 82. Donoghue, an avid runner who lived in Lynchburg while working at Liberty University, was killed on Sept. 16 while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan.
Following the singing of the National Anthem, the color guard took their places in the sea of runners. Assisted athletes took the front line of the race, starting five minutes ahead of the runners. Pushed by runners, the assisted participants shouted with excitement with the wind in their faces.
Sgt. Peter Kareem Francis, a 2003 Heritage High School graduate who was wounded in action in Afghanistan in May 2013, was the official starter for this year’s 10 Miler. Running legends Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson returned to Lynchburg for the Virginia 10 Miler this year, after serving as MCs for last year’s 10 Miler.
The husband and wife team are world class runners, authors and public speakers. Kathrine Switzer, who attended Lynchburg College, broke the gender barrier in running when she became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon in 1967.
Roger Robinson has run in countless masters races on five continents and serves as an inspiration to masters runners around the world. Jean Knaack, president of the Road Runners Club of America, joined Switzer and Robinson on the platform this year.
The individual stories of the Virginia 10 Miler are stories of determination, pride and endurance. As they neared the finish line, runners and walkers checked watches, held hands, pumped fists, waved to the crowd, gasped for breath, raised their hands, grinned, shouted and took selfies to celebrate the accomplishment.
As many first time runners learned, Lynchburg is a runner-friendly community. Young and old; men, women and children; individuals, couples and families; they finished the race running, walking and even limping as thousands of fans lined the streets and finish line to cheer and encourage them.