Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay and Kenya’s Caroline Rotich, were the 15K Boilermaker winners

Gabriel Geay was surprised. Not so much so that it cost him the 2019 Boilermaker Road Race, however.

The 22-year-old Tanzanian held off an unexpected challenge from Mohamed Red El Aaraby, outkicking the Moroccan veteran over the last mile, and winning the 42nd annual 15-kilometer classic in 43 minutes, 36 seconds Sunday.

Geay cut four seconds off his winning time of last year in becoming the first back-to-back male open champion since John Korir put wins together in 2003 and 2004. El Aaraby was three seconds back in 43:39.

“He surprised me,” Geay said. “He’s a strong guy.”

Geay had more than enough, however, to get the best of El Aaraby, a Boilermaker newcomer who set the Beirut Marathon record of 2:10:41 in November.

Caroline Rotich, 35, the 2015 Boston Marathon champion, took the female open title with a time of 49:08, just edging out Iveen Chepkemoi by several strides and one second. Rotich, like Geay, earned $7,000 for her win.

Abdi Abdirahman, 40, and Kate Landau, 42, both of the United States, ran 46:31 and 52:39, respectively, in winning masters titles. They both earned $2,000. Haron Lagat, 35, was the top American male, finishing in 44:21, fifth overall. Belainesh Gebre, 31, lead the American women with a time of 51:03, sixth overall. They earned $3,000 apiece.

None of the times approached Boilermaker course records.

The race started after a delay of about 22 minutes because of homicide investigation off of Culver Avenue. It began under mostly cloudy skies, with a temperature of 69 degrees and some humidity.

A group of about 20 runners separated themselves from the pack almost immediately after the gun went off, with Terefa Debela Delesa of Ethiopia and Stephen Kiptoo Sambu of Kenya setting the pace, as they would for much of the race. The pace was somewhat leisurely, with the first mile taking 4:46.

The lead group was down to eight runners once they reached the turn into Steele Hill Road and Valley View Golf Course, with Geay pressing ahead for the first time. The climb and descent — the fifth mile, downhill, was covered in a little more than four minutes — left it a four-man race, with Geay, El Aaraby, Delesa and Sambu fighting it out. They were still together turning onto Champlin Avenue, but Geay pulled out at Mile 7, and only El Aaraby went with him. They were shoulder to shoulder as they motored to eight miles, past and then made the turn onto Whitesboro Street.

Shortly afterward, Geay began to open things up — two strides, three strides, then a few more.

“I thought maybe I should push,” he said. “I was worried he might come back, but he didn’t.”

Geay opened it up to 30 yards coming down through the wildly cheering crowd on Court Street, and had no trouble cruising in for the win.

“I needed some speed at the end,” said El Aaraby, who was running his first Boilermaker at age 29. “He has more speed than I do.”

posted Monday July 15th
by John Pitarresi