Stanley Kebenei broke the American 10 mile record at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile

Stanley Kebenei could pick from a few comeback stories on his way to setting the American record at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile. A year ago, he was sitting at home nursing an Achilles tendon injury that left him in despair.

A week ago, he had just run a miserable race for the world cross country championships. But none of that mattered when he crossed the line Sunday in 46:00, breaking Greg Myer’s 1983 record of 46:13, also run at Cherry Blossom.

“It’s a dream come true,” Kebenei said. “You should never lose hope.”

He put his 35th place finish in Aarhus, Denmark behind him when he flew to Washington, D.C. and spent the intervening week training in Maryland. He’s a Kenyan-born American citizen who ran at the University of Arkansas and trains in Colorado Springs with the American Distance Project.

“I just didn’t even think about (world cross country),” he said. “It was one race, and this was another. I had my eye on the American record.”

He told Elite Athlete Coordinator Bill Orr as much the morning of the race, then went out to back up the shot that he had called.

Kebenei, 29, felt sluggish early on, but by the third mile, the lead pack began throwing in surges, which Kebenei felt comfortable covering. By mile eight, though, things had changed, and when  defending champion Jemal Yimer started pulling away, Kebenei, who won the 2017 race, had to decide between trying to top Yimer or focusing on his record attempt.

He backed off.

“If I had tried to run with them, I felt like I might have lost it in the last mile and slowed down too much,” he said. “I focused on a mile at a time at the end, but wanted to be ready for the last hill.”

Ethiopian Yimer, 22, edged Kenyan Josphat Tanui, 25, 45:36-35:38. Kenyan Edwin Kibichiy, 27 closed in 45:58, with Kebenei two seconds back, with a 55-second margin behind him to cousin, 2014 and 2015 winner Stephen Sambu. Yimer said his main goal was to win,regardless of the time, but finishing so far under 46:00 pleased him.

Kebenei had spent a good portion of 2018 fretting about his Achilles.

“I was sitting in my house, feeling helpless and desperate,” he said. “Some injuries give you hope, but a hurt Achilles’ tendon makes your mind weak.”


He didn’t feel confident again until the Twin Cities 10 Mile in October, where he finished third.

posted Monday April 8th