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 October 18, 2021, Issue 151

Agnes Tirop after winning bronze in the 10,000m at the 2017 World Championships (Photo by marcoverch, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Kenyan athletes speak out following murders

Athletes are opening up about domestic violence in Kenya after two track and field athletes were allegedly murdered by their partners last week. World champion and Olympian Agnes Tirop’s estranged husband, Ibrahim Rotich, was arrested for her murder in Mombasa on Thursday, while he was trying to flee the country. And sprinter Edith Muthoni’s husband (or boyfriend, according to some news reports), Kennedy Chomba, has been arrested for her murder.

Mary Ngugi, who finished third in the Boston Marathon last Monday, wrote on Instagram, “I see it so often where a ‘husband’ has control of a woman, treats them as their slave with their athletic earnings and [uses] domestic or psychological abuse to manipulate and control them. I am calling for a federation, government, or anyone to use yesterday’s tragedy as a kick in the ass to finally set something up for women so they can talk and find ways to escape their tortures.” In a subsequent post, Ngugi said that anyone who can help should reach out to her.

Joan Chelimo, a 65-minute half marathoner, has also been outspoken on the topic. She wrote on Instagram, “The assassination of Agnes Tirop is the assassination of freedom and women’s rights. How many more (Agneses) do we have out there?” Aliphine Tuliamuk, former Oregon runner Susan Ejore, and Tianna Madison are among the other athletes who have shared their thoughts on the matter, and I was glad to see at least one man chime in as well.

Athletics Kenya official Elizabeth Keitany told The Standard, “A majority of Kenya’s female athletes are in abusive relationships, but (they’re) afraid of coming out.”

Tirop’s brother told The Nation that Tirop’s husband was physically abusive when she returned from the Tokyo Olympic Games and that she left home after that, but both families reportedly convinced the couple to try to reconcile, and that’s why they had gotten together last week. Athletics Kenya has suspended all of its events for two weeks as the country mourns Tirop’s death.

On Sunday, Angela Tanui, who had to withdraw from the Boston Marathon at the last minute due to visa issues, won the Amsterdam Marathon in 2:17:57, which makes her the 10th-fastest marathoner of all time. She wore a ribbon on her bib to remember and honor Tirop.


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Weini Kelati wins in Boston. (Photo courtesy of Boston 10K for Women)

Weini Kelati breaks Molly Huddle’s event record in Boston

Weini Kelati has lived in the U.S. since 2014, when, at age 17, she attended the World Junior Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, and then called her family in Eritrea and told them she wasn’t coming home. Kelati was raised in Virginia, by her third cousin, and then went on to star at the University of New Mexico. She began pursuing U.S. citizenship in late 2019, which she and her lawyer thought would leave plenty of time before the pandemic-delayed 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, held in 2021. But various factors, outlined in this Washington Post piece, left her scrambling this summer, and she became a U.S. citizen just three days before she was to run the 10,000m at the Trials.

Had Kelati, 24, made the team, it would have been a wonderful story. Instead, she ran 6,000m of the race and then dropped out. Kelati didn’t race for the rest of the summer, but she started ramping her training back up again in August. When Kelati lined up for Saturday’s Boston 10K for Women, it was her first race since the Trials, and her first full race since becoming a U.S. citizen. She didn’t hold back.

She ran in a small pack through the first several miles, before making a move at the three-mile mark and pulling away to win in 31:18. “My plan from the beginning was to push, because I’ve been doing so well in my training, and I’ve been seeing a lot of improvement.” Kelati said after the race.

She broke Molly Huddle’s event record by three seconds. Huddle set the record when she was on a tear in the fall of 2015, not long after she finished fourth in the 10,000m at that summer’s world championships (Runner’s World). “Last summer, I kind of left heartbroken because I didn’t make the [U.S. Olympic team], and the race didn’t go as I needed,” Kelati said. “But I am so proud to be here, a citizen, and represent America at the highest level.”

The lead pack at the start.

Kelati’s Dark Sky Distance training partner Sharon Lokedi finished second in 31:57, and Mary Munanu took third in 32:35 (results). Race organizers originally thought that Kelati’s time was an American record for a women’s-only race, and the local newspapers reported it as such (Boston Globe). But it turns out that there was an error in the USATF database, and Huddle’s 31:21 was listed as the record, instead of Shalane Flanagan’s 31:03 from 2015. (Thanks to David Monti for verifying that.)

Under normal circumstances, the Boston 10K for Women would have been held on Monday, but understanding the challenges the B.A.A. was facing in rescheduling the Boston Marathon, the 10K organizers agreed to push their event back five days. The race is the second-longest-running all-women’s race in the country, behind the New York Mini 10K. (This race started out as the Bonne Bell 10K, and I fondly remember my mother running it and coming home with fun chapsticks.)

Sara Mae Berman
Race starter Sara Mae Berman, who is a three-time Boston Marathon champion.

It had been roughly two years since the Boston area has hosted any large road running events, so to have two in one week was a treat. And while the 10K can’t compete with the Boston Marathon spectator-wise (there were very few at the 10K), the race course includes three out-and-back sections, which bring the elites and the masses together in a nice way. In this video of Kelati, you can see runners in the second mile of their race cheering Kelati on during her fifth mile. Sara Mae Berman, a three-time Boston Marathon champion (1969–71), served as the race’s starter, and the race honored the runners who have participated in all 45 editions of the event. Anyone who has been at it for that long has seen a lot of changes in women’s running and probably has some stories to tell.


Other Results

  • Ethiopia’s Tigist Memuye won the Paris Marathon in 2:26:12, Kenya’s Joyce Tele Chepkemoi won the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon in 1:06:35 (with Betty Chepkemoi Kibet two seconds back), and Kenya’s Sandrafelis Tuei won the Barcelona Half Marathon in 1:07:12 (summary).

  • Eilish McColgan won the Great South Run, a 10-mile race, in a British record of 50:43.

  • In her debut at the distance, Kenya’s Lydia Naliaka Simiyu won the Cape Town Marathon in 2:25:44. Running legends Elana Meyer and Zola Budd Pieterse, both 55, ran the race together, finishing in 3:35. (Results)

  • Sarah Inglis, who runs for Great Britain but lives in Canada, won the Toronto Waterfront 10K in 31:59. Leslie Sexton finished second to Inglis but won the race within a race for the Canadian 10K title, in 32:04. (Results)

  • Biruktayit Degefa won the Denver Colfax Half Marathon in 1:11:49.

  • Ethiopia’s Hirut Guangul won the Des Moines Marathon in 2:36:05, and Emma Huston finished second in 2:41:46. (Results)

  • Sakiko Minagawa won the Columbus Marathon, which is sponsored by the hospital she works for, in 2:41:12. Molly Bookmyer won the half marathon in 1:12:29. (Results)

  • Annmarie Tuxbury won the Pell Bridge Run 4-mile race in Newport, Rhode Island, outright, in 21:02. (Results)

  • Shalane Flanagan shared that she’ll run her virtual Tokyo Marathon today on Oregon's Sauvie Island. Tokyo was originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 17.

NCAA Highlights

  • In Friday’s Nuttycombe Invitational, hosted by Wisconsin, Oklahoma State’s Taylor Roe, the NCAA runner-up in March, was pushing the pace late in the race. But NC State’s Kelsey Chmiel took over the lead with about 400 meters to go and started to pull away. Roe caught back up to Chmiel, but then West Virginia University’s Ceili McCabe, who is from Canada, went by both of them in the homestretch. McCabe, who was 42nd at the last NCAA Cross Country Championships in March, won the 6K race in 19:57.4. Chmiel held on to take second in 20:00.2, and Roe was third in 20:01.1. No. 3 New Mexico won the team title with 93 points. No. 1 NC State, who was resting Hannah Steelman, took second with 102 points, and No. 2 BYU, who sat out Whittni Orton Morgan, took third with 152 points. (Results)

  • The Pre-National meet took place the same day at Florida State, and while most of the top-ranked teams chose to race at Nuttycombe, there was still some excellent competition in Tallahassee. The University of Colorado dominated the team race, and put themselves into the national title conversation, scoring 54 points to runner-up Utah’s 149. They would have won the team race even if they had sat out their top two runners. Abby Nichols led the way for CU, edging Arkansas’ Lauren Gregory, 19:46.4 to 19:47.7 in the 6K race. NCAA indoor 5,000m champion Joyce Kimeli of Auburn, who won a “B” race at Notre Dame two weeks ago, showed she’s gaining some steam by finishing 10th in 20:10.9. (Results)

Sharon Lokedi runs the 2021 Boston 10K for Women
Boston 10K for Women runner-up Sharon Lokedi

Additional News and Links

  • Allyson Felix, who was honored as the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Individual Sportswoman of the Year last week, said that she’s still deciding whether to retire or compete for one more season. “It still sounds very interesting to me,” she told On Her Turf. “[I’m] kind of just seeing if it’s going to be the move.”

  • Emma Bates told Erin Strout of her move from Boise to Boulder, “I had to make a change, not that I didn’t have great friends in Boise but I couldn’t be in that environment anymore. There was too much toxicity and too much stress for me. I knew I needed to remove myself and find another community that I was going to fit in and feel some value and support.” Things have obviously worked out well for Bates, who finished second in the Chicago Marathon just over a week ago. Bates also discussed how her training has changed under Team Boss’ Joe Bosshard. 

  • For more on Bates, she was on the I’ll Have Another podcast last week. She talked about having the support of her teammates on the sidelines in Chicago and confirmed that Laura Thweatt is no longer part of Team Boss, though Bates plans to continue doing some training with Thweatt. Bates also said that Asics told her they would support her this year through her struggles, even if she didn’t race, and having that pressure removed made all the difference to her.
  • Of her decision to retire from professional track and field, Chanelle Price wrote, “I’ve given everything I have to this sport, and I’m tired now. The thought of training another year makes me laugh because I literally don’t think I could do it. Well, I take that back. I could do it, but I’d just be going through the motions. And I’m not the type of person to do anything halfheartedly. The lifestyle of a professional runner requires a level of discipline, sacrifice, determination, and perseverance I’m no longer willing to give. It’s a fight every single day. And I have no more fight left in me.”

  • The Oregon Track Club is losing Price, but Angel Piccirillo announced last week that she’s leaving Oiselle’s Littlewing Athletics team and joining the OTC. It’s a move that makes sense for her, because her fiancé, Pat Tiernan, is a member of the team.

  • Meanwhile, Oiselle’s Littlewing Athletics team is continuing on. Dr. Sarah Lesko of Oiselle told Fast Women editor Sarah Lorge Butler they’re taking their time in figuring out who will coach the group while Lauren Fleshman is on leave. With the exception of Piccirillo and Sadi Henderson, who announced last month that she was joining the Atlanta Track Club, the other five members of the team remain. Rebecca Mehra has moved to Seattle but will continue to be a member of Littlewing, training remotely. Lesko said Oiselle is having conversations about adding new runners to the team, but “we’re not in a huge hurry to force the next iteration of what’s happening,” she said. 

  • The Foot Locker Cross Country Championships will henceforth be known as the Eastbay Cross Country Championships, and whatever they call it, I’m just glad this event has found a way to remain afloat since 1979.

  • Mary Cain has filed a $20 million lawsuit against Alberto Salazar and Nike over her experience with the Nike Oregon Project. Cain’s lawyer, Kristen McCall, told The Journal News, “It’s anyone’s guess” whether the lawsuit will be heard in court.

  • This is a nice article about the training camp 2007 world 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei has established for up-and-coming athletes in Kenya.

  • Emily Infeld got married in Los Cabos over the weekend.

  • Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Meghan Roth collapsed around the 8-mile mark of last week’s Boston Marathon after going into cardiac arrest, but thanks to the efforts of bystanders and other runners, she is doing okay now. Roth is a 2:44 marathoner but she shared on her Instagram account that she had Covid and was still quarantined due to that six weeks out from the Boston Marathon.

  • There’s a new documentary coming called Breaking Three Hours: Trailblazing African-American Women Marathoners, and you can get more information here.


Podcast Highlights

  • On the Pyllars podcast, ultrarunner Katie Asmuth talked about all the changes she’s made to her life since she won the Bandera 100K in January, and what she learned in the process of taking fifth in her Western States debut. Asmuth said her “why” has changed, because she has a bigger platform now. “If you succeed and you’re killing it out there, people listen to you more… I want to train harder because I want to inspire more moms to get out on the trails and more women in sport,” she said.

  • Makenna Myler, who has burst onto the elite scene this year, shared more of her story on the Fueling the Pursuit podcast. (Content warning: Discussion of past disordered eating)

  • I was not at all familiar with Stride for Stride until I listened to Tom O’Keefe on the Social Sport podcast. The organization works to increase diversity and inclusion in running by buying race bibs for immigrant, BIPOC, and low-income runners, and both the episode and the website (first link) have information about how those interested can help.

Correction: In Wednesday’s newsletter, I wrote about how the spelling of Boston Marathon winner Diana Kipyokei’s name was corrected after the race, and then I proceeded to spell her name wrong in the subject line of the email. I think the facepalm emoji was invented just for situations like that.

I knew I missed our big local races, but I didn’t realize quite how much until I attended two of them last week. Sixteen months ago, we were watching the Oregon Track Club race the Atlanta Track Club remotely, and we’ve come a long way since then. Fast Women editor Sarah Lorge Butler wrote a nice piece about the return of major marathons to the U.S. for Runner’s World.

There are more big races next weekend, including the USATF 25K Championships on Saturday in Grand Rapids, Michigan (no word on who is running yet) and Sunday’s Valencia Half Marathon, which features some of the fastest women in the world.

A huge thanks to UCAN for sponsoring Fast Women this month, and remember you can save 20 percent off your first order using the code FASTWOMEN. And I am also so thankful to those of you who keep Fast Women going with your Patreon contributions. I hope you all have a great week!


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