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Ben True sets US 5k Record

ben true - US 5K road record

At the seventh annual B.A.A. 5K, New England native Ben True ran his way into the record books, clocking a national record time of 13:22 to win his third B.A.A. 5K title. True, 13:24, became the first athlete in race history to claim three titles, a testament to his fast finishing kick and determination.

Ben True breaks 19-year-old American Record

With clear blue skies, weather conditions were ideal for fast times and exciting races. A very strong field lined up on Charles Street, including True, Steven Sambu (KEN), Philip Langat (KEN), Daniel Salel (KEN), Girma Mecheso (ETH) and a boat-load more.

That the gang was here to run was evident from the moment the gun fired at 8:00 a.m., sending the field of 10,000 on its way. Starting on Charles Street next to Boston Common, the race’s new course looped onto Boylston and Arlington Streets before swinging left onto Commonwealth Avenue and a long, long turn-free super-fast straightaway. By the time the male leaders had surged onto Commonwealth Avenue – not even half a mile into the race – the contenders had already been identified. The most aggressive of these was Kenya’s Philip Langat who surged to the forefront, giving the appearance of a man who intended to leave nothing to chance.

Approaching the first mile marker, Langat held a margin of 10 meters. The first mile split was 4:19 with Langat in the driver’s seat and a pack of four – Sambu, Salel, Macheso and True – running shoulder to shoulder in his wake. Of the pack, it was True who garnered the most attention. Being (almost) local and having placed second in 2014 in a dead-heat sprint for the line with Dejen Gebremeskel, there was talk that, on this new course, he could improve his time by a couple of seconds and snag the US record. Interestingly – and somewhat fittingly – that record mark stood to Marc Davis, who set it at 13:24 in Carlsbad in 1996. Davis is the Communications Director at the Boston Athletic Association, and was on hand for today’s race.

With the blistering first mile completed, Langat continued hammering along, visions of a gun to tape victory clearly in his head. True, Salel, Macheso and Sambu also hammered – but two or three seconds in arrears. With racers of such talent and experience, though, this was a situation that could not be allowed to continue.

Approaching the one and a half mile mark and the intersection where Commonwealth Avenue dips under Massachusetts Avenue, things began to change. That dip is small, but it has got some teeth. A sharp drop followed by a short sharp climb can do some damage, which it did. Langat didn’t fade, but he couldn’t maintain his margin over the chasing foursome, and as they all reached the turnaround at Charlesgate West, what had been a pack of four was now a group of five with True at the helm.

Running back down Commonwealth Ave., now facing the thousands of runners competing in their wake, the leaders hung tight before making the right turn on to Hereford St. The two mile split was 8:44, which was no sooner passed than the group swung left on to Boylston Street and the super-fast stretch over the Boston Marathon finish line

It was difficult to say which one man was pushing, but True was definitely frisky, as were Sambu and Salel. Mecheso looked to be weakening, but Langat was still there and looking as powerful as ever. With less than a mile to go, it was way too difficult to start predicting the outcome.

Mecheso was the first to drop, shortly after the Marathon finish line. Then True took it up demonstrably, causing Langat to concede ground; and then it was down to three – True, Sambu and Salel. In 2014, this trio had placed second, third and fifth respectively. Maybe that was an indicator of this year’s outcome. Maybe. Still, too early to tell.

The story was only truly told at the three mile mark (12:56), at the very point where the course turned left onto Charles Street, bringing the Boston Common finish line – and its adjacent hordes of spectators – into view. Salel had already lost a meter or two of ground; but, the three mile sign, the finish line, the cheering throngs – some combination of all three was all it took for True to ignite his afterburners and surge for the line in a manner that gave Sambu no hope at all. At the tape – held by past two-time Marathon champion, Geoff Smith – the margin was a single second, but a big single second. More significantly, the time on the clock was 13:22, a two second improvement on Davis’ US record mark.

“It may be a cliché,” the recently deposed record holder stated, “but it’s true: records are made to be broken. I’m very happy for Ben.”

It need hardly be said that True was even more happy. “People were calling my name all around the course,” he stated. “I felt bad for Sambu. They were just cheering for me and not for him. I knew, based on last year, that I might be able to run fast on this course. Now, having this kind of benchmark confirms that I’m on course for the rest of the year.”

Notably, the rest of this year could include an appearance at the World Championships, scheduled for Beijing, China, in August.

For the win, True claimed $7,500, a figure boosted a further $5,000 by the event record bonus. In second, Sambu earned $4,000, with Salel in third (13:27) claiming $2,500.

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