You could almost hear the “whoosh” as a strong field of international runners displayed their talents at the 34th annual Subaru Buffalo 4-Mile Chase on Friday night.
The star of the night was Cynthia Limo of Kenya. She broke the course record by 15 seconds in covering the 4 miles in an impressive 20 minutes and 3 seconds. That was good for a $1,000 bonus to go with the $1,000 prize for winning the race. The old record was set in 1994 by Anne Hare of New Zealand.
In the men’s race, Yonas Mebrahtu of Kenya was almost as good in his victory. He turned in a time of 18:19.
Limo made it her goal to not just win the event, but to break a record. She got off to a fast start and went on to a comfortable win over Alice Kamunya of Kenya (20:30) and Biruktayit Eshetu of Ethiopia (20:54).
“It was a nice race, but it was very hot,” Limo said. “I’m very happy about winning the race against good competition, and very happy to break the record.”
Amherst’s Amy Fakterowitz – who finished fifth among Masters runners in 26:06 – came away impressed.
“Locally, many people run that time for” a 5-kilometer run (3.1 miles), she said. “To run that for 4 miles is unbelievable. That helps put it in perspective.
“I went out probably the fastest I’ve gone out all year, and I didn’t see anybody.”
This was Limo’s first trip to Buffalo, and she enjoyed the visit.
“I’m very happy for the people of Buffalo, who were cheering for us during the race,” she said. “After every mile, they were cheering for us, and that gave me courage to go faster.”
Limo has been busy since she arrived in the United States in June for the summer running season. The 24-year-old already has three victories to her credit, and finished third last week at the Boilermaker in Utica. The top men’s runners showed right from the beginning that they were superb athletes. The first mile was completed in an extremely fast 4:19. Shortly after that, the lead pack was down to only three runners, all from Kenya – Mebrahtu, Julius Koskei and Nelson Oyugi.
Oyugi dropped back a bit by the 3-mile mark, leaving Mebrahtu and Koskei to battle it out the rest of the way. Mebrahtu was running a little easier as the race wound down. He obviously had more left in the tank, putting on a small but decisive burst with about a half-mile to go to win by four seconds.
“I was strong, and the race was good,” Mebrahtu said. “The course was nice. I knew I wasn’t going to get the record on such a hot night, so I decided to stay with the pack until the end. … I wasn’t 100 percent because I raced in Utica on Sunday, but it was good.”
The race was a bit of revenge for Mebrahtu, who lost to Sammy Kiplagat of Kenya by a second in a 4-miler in Kansas City a few months ago.
“He’s some guy, though,” Mebrahtu said about the 40-year-old Kiplagat, who was 10th overall and second among Masters runners this time.
Mebrahtu also ran in the 15-kilometer Utica event last weekend, finishing seventh.
Zach Tomasik of Orchard Park is a fine local runner, and even won a trail race in his hometown Thursday night. He was almost shaking his head after the race about the talent shown by the top runners on Friday night. “They are leagues above you,” said Tomasik, who finished in 22:37. “It’s so cool to see, to see where you could be. You’ll never get there, but it’s great to see those people in the sport. I stayed with people for about 20 yards, and I think I could see them for the first half of a mile.”
The top United States male runner was Patrick Geoghegan of Syracuse, who edged Tim Chichester of Mount Morris by one second (19:22 to 19:23).
Vasilis Kariolis of Buffalo was the top local runner, coming in 13th among men in 20:41. Kariolis in June won his third straight J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge race here.
Christa Meyer of Fairport finished first among American females. She beat out Christine Sprehe of Amherst by almost a minute (22:32 to 23:23); Sprehe was 10th among women.
It’s a little rare for defending champions to return to Buffalo, but the 2014 winners didn’t rule out that possibility.
“I like this place. Maybe next year I’ll come back,” Limo said.
“I love this race and everything about it. The people are so nice,” Mebrahtu said.