It’s common these days for races to offer more than one distance option. In that respect, the Silicon Labs Sunshine Run is typical with a 5-K and 10-K on the same course at the same time. Usually, everything works out just fine, but on Sunday morning confusion reigned.
At least among the leaders of the 10-K where there was prize money at stake which was at the root of the jumble at the top of the leader board. (More on that in a minute.)
A record field of nearly 2400 assembled on Riverside at Auditorium Shores on a seasonably humid and warm morning under overcast skies. The majority of the combined fields was entered in the 5-K, but only the 10-K offered prize money. Nobody was going to get rich off the $1000 total purse, but that added incentive brought out a few of the top guns, including Benjamin Metto and Alfred Kiplagat–Kenyans who live in Georgetown.
As professional runners, they were the class of the field and even though they were wearing 5-K numbers (the race ran out of 10-K numbers), clearly they were running the 10-K for the prize money. Right from the start in front of the Long Center, the two Kenyans dutifully followed the APD motorcycle officer who led the parade down Cesar Chavez and around Austin HS and up the hill at Veterans to Lake Austin Boulevard.
But, the lead APD officer wasn’t familiar with the 10-K course and inexplicably turned around right outside Magnolia’s well short of the turnaround point on Lake Austin Boulevard, just past Exposition.
“We were just following the lead motorcycle,” explained Metto, “and when he turned, Alfred and I turned. Then, everybody just followed us.”
Everyone else in the 10-K field ran the required distance, including the second pack of Drew Soucy, Collin Smith and Paul Morris. The three were so far back of the leaders, they didn’t see them turn around and only saw the two Kenyans when they were already well on their way back to Auditorium Shores on the out-and-back course.
Said Drew Soucy, who was leading the second pack, “I didn’t know what they were doing. When I saw them, they came flying back past us. We still had another mile to go to reach the turnaround so I knew something was wrong.”
But the wrong wasn’t entirely with the Kenyans who naturally figured the lead motorcycle knew the course better than they did. “I’m sure they weren’t trying to cheat,” said Soucy.
On their way back to the finish, the two Kenyans weaved their way through the 5-K runners and reached the top of the Cesar Chavez hills—opposite City Hall–in about 19 minutes and, at that point, knew that something was screwed up. If there were any doubts, those were erased when the Kenyans hit the finish line in 22:20 and 22:26—four minutes faster than the world road record.
Eventually, Soucy—who ran at Adams State–was rightfully awarded the victory in 31:57 with former UT runner Collin Smith second in 32:33 and former Columbia University runner Paul Morris—on the comeback trail—in third in 34:25. Those three were also awarded the prize money and the Kenyans were also given the equivalent of first and second place prize money ($350 and $100).
Once the organizing Young Men’s Business League of Austin figured out what had transpired, they quickly admitted the fault was with them. “It was our responsibility to make sure the lead officer knew the course,” said a race official, “and unfortunately he didn’t.”
Meanwhile, in the women’s race there was no such controversy. Jennifer Hall, who is Soucy’s girlfriend, was an easy winner in a slow (for her) time of 37:48, followed by Amber Reber in 39:21 and 12-year-old Sydney Osgood third 41:37.
Said Hall who was disappointed with her time, “The last two miles hurt me. I had to weave in and out of the 5-K runners and combined with the hills and humidity, it slowed me down. But I’m still happy to win in any time.”
As for the Kenyans, Hall said: “I was going up the hill at Veterans when they were coming down it. They were so far out ahead of Drew that I knew something wasn’t right.”
In the accompanying 5-K, there were no such issues on the venerable Dog Pound Loop which has been utilized for years on downtown 5-Ks. Matthew Kearney—a 15-year-old sophomore at Westlake HS—was the overall winner in 16:13 with Will Verheul second in 16:53 and Ashish and Kai Patel in third in 17:25. (Ashish was pushing his 15-month-old son in a running stroller.)
The top woman in the 5-K was Karen Saenz in 18:45 which made her two for two in road race victories. Last weekend, Saenz took the women’s title at the Travis Country 5-K in 18:54. Following Saenz on Sunday were Isabella Picolo in 19:07 and Cindy Saiter—the 45-year-old attorney– who finished third in 20:19.
Full results are available at https://runsignup.com/race/results/?raceId=20690#resultSetId-35050.