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TOP MALE RUNNER

Kenyan newcomer, Sammy Too, wins Richmond Marathon

Too surges late in men’s race; Tadesse coasts for women’s win

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Too fast and too strong: Kenyan newcomer wins Richmond Marathon

Kenyan Sammy Too broke away in the final mile to win the Anthem Richmond Marathon in 2:16:09 in his race debut.

Too fast. Too strong. Too steady.

Late-arriving Kenyan Sammy Too was all of the above in a convincing victory in his Anthem Richmond Marathon debut.

Too, sharp and resilient, pulled away from 2011 champion and course record-holder Kennedy Kemei over the last mile Saturday and won by 8 seconds on a raw, misty morning in downtown Richmond. His time (2:16:09) was the sixth-fastest in the event’s 36-year history.

“I felt very good, very fresh and very comfortable,” said Too, speaking through coach/agent Ben Kurgat.

Too, a 24-year-old who arrived in the United States from Kenya fewer than 12 hours before the race began, ran stride for stride with Kemei for much of the last eight miles. He launched his first serious push near the 23-mile mark. Kennedy parried that thrust, but had nothing left when Too began to push again with a mile remaining.

Kurgat, whose stable of elite athletes includes Kemei, believes the former champion may have been running on empty when he and Too turned onto 5th Street for the steep downhill surge to the finish. Kemei, a 35-year-old from Kenya, won the Columbus Marathon less than a month ago.

Too, the winner of last year’s Tel Aviv Marathon, may have been carrying fatigue-related baggage of his own. He flew into Washington late Friday afternoon. He arrived in Richmond with time to do nothing other than “eat and go to sleep.”

But if he was weary, he concealed it well. Never did he drift behind the lead pack. After two miles, the lead pack had dwindled to five. After 18, it had been reduced to two. Soon thereafter, it was reduced to Too.

Disappointment notwithstanding, Kemei may have cemented his status as one of the most consistently dangerous performers in Richmond Marathon history. Saturday’s race was his third in Richmond in as many years. He finished first in 2011 (2:13:45), third in 2012 (2:15:15) and second this year.

Too, who collected a $2,500 first-place check, said he enjoyed not only the 26.2-mile course but also the damp, chilly weather. The event’s elite competitors ran under conditions that were very nearly ideal: temperature in the mid-40s, consistent cloud cover, occasional light rain, virtually no wind.

“It’s hard to ask for much better,” said Thom Suddeth, the coordinator of elite athletes for the marathon and its two companion races, the American Family Fitness Half Marathon and the HCA Virginia 8k.

“Weather like this lets (an elite competitor) push himself to the max. He’s not worrying about overheating. He’s not worrying about fighting the wind. The only thing he’s worried about is his legs and what they’re going to be able to do.”

Said Too: “It wasn’t at all like running at home in Kenya. There, it’s too hot.”

Benjamin Zywicki, a 25-year-old from Louisville, Colo., finished third in 2:20:47. Ethiopian Getachew Melese Asfaw, the winner of last month’s Hartford (Conn.) Marathon, finished fourth in 2:22:50.

Marathon officials said 16,360 runners, joggers and walkers took part in Saturday’s three races.

vdorr@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6442

@RTDVicDorr

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