Richard Kimani from Kenya and Lesley Paterson from Scotland captured the XTERRA Oak Mountain 20K titles on a hot and humid morning at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama today.
It’s the second win in a row at Oak Mountain for Kimani and the second time Paterson, who captured the grueling XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road triathlon elite title less than 24 hours earlier, has won two races in two days here (she did the same thing in 2013).
“I wanted to come back to XTERRA Oak Mountain because I love the course and the challenge of it,” said Kimani after he crossed the finish line. “It was definitely hard out there today and so very warm. I had to watch my feet because of the roots and the sharp stones and tight turns.”
Kimani finished the race in 1:22:04, which equates to 6:37 pace per mile. His time was about 10 minutes slower than his time the previous year when the weather was cloudy and almost 10 degrees cooler. All runners commented on the heat, which they agreed was the most brutal opponent of the day.
Kimani was born and raised in Kijaido, Kenya where running and coaching became a big part of his life. He spent five years training with elite marathoners in the Ngong Hills and in Eldoret, Kenya, which is about 7000 feet above sea level. He has a personal best of 2:18 in the marathon and a half marathon PR of 1:03, which is the same as three-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ Joseph Gray’s PR in the same event. Kimani currently resides in Homewood, Alabama, where he trains on the roads and trails of nearby Red Mountain.
Andy Lee, who was the first amateur finisher at the XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road triathlon the previous day, was second in the 20K today in 1:33:35. Will Kelsay, who finished eighth among the elites at XTERRA Oak Mountain yesterday, was third in 1:38:16.
“These are great trails,” said Lee, who is a firefighter in Austin, Texas. “I ran by myself all morning and felt good despite the heat. I knew I couldn’t match Richard, so when he took off at the start, I let him go.”
Paterson showed her trademark grit on the two-lap, 20K run which challenged all competitors with its switchbacks, stones, and exposed roots. She was challenged by 17-year old high school running phenom, McKenzie Hogue and had to call up her famous alter ego, Paddy McGinty.
“I woke up this morning feeling so trashed,” said Paterson after her race yesterday which included a 1.5K swim, a 30K mountain bike ride, and a 10K run on the same course as the XTERRA Oak Mountain 20K Trail Run.
“I thought that maybe I could just head out on the run, but there were some strong girls out there. Paddy was not there at the start, but when McKenzie caught up to me at the end of the first lap, Paddy came out. I put in a big effort on the road and just plugged away. I wish I could say it was fun, but it was brutal.”
Paterson finished the run in 1:43:21, which is 8:19 pace per mile. McKenzie Hogue came in less than two minutes behind in 1:45 flat, while last year’s XTERRA Oak Mountain 20K Champ, Jennifer McGranahan was third in 1:49:39.
McKenzie Hogue may only be a teenager, but she has been competing in triathlons since she was 11. This year, running for Thompson High School in Alabaster, Alabama, Hogue won the Shelby County Cross Country Championship in the fall. This winter, she won both the 1600 and 3200 meter runs at the AHSAA Indoor Track and Field Championship and then did it again at the AHSAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship this spring.
The run at XTERRA Oak Mountain was Hogue’s first 20K ever.
“Oh my goodness, I love it out here. It’s amazing,” said Hogue after the race. “This was my first 20K and I wasn’t sure exactly how to run it. I tried to stay with the first two girls on the first lap and I moved into second place on the second lap. Then it got so hard, I tanked. It was a lot harder than I anticipated but I kept trying to push through.”
Jennifer McGranahan was visibly disappointed in her third-place finish, but displayed her trademark sportsmanship and love for running.
“I’m a little perplexed,” said McGranahan about her performance. “I thought I was in better shape than that, but I felt like I hit a brick wall out there today. I kept reminding myself that we were all hurting out there, so don’t throw in the towel. Ultimately, you can only do your best on the day. The course was beautiful as always and everyone was so great.”
In true XTERRA fashion, McGranahan was encouraged by a fellow runner, Justin McDonald, who finished seventh overall, but ran with McGranahan for most of the second lap.
“We didn’t talk out there, but it’s good to have someone to run with. It can get lonely out there,” said McDonald after the race.
In the 10K trail run, Richard Kipp won for the men in 46:02. David Ash was second in 46:19 and Daniel Peco was third in 47:37. In the women’s race, Aubrey Peco won in 50:30, XTERRA triathlete Sian Crespo was second in 53:38, and Leslie Crais was third in 56:45.
The day also featured a 5K on the trails, which was won by Andrew Kilgore in 21:48. Brody Church was second in 23:21, and Jacob Villani was third in 23:49. For the women, Clark Stewart was first in 26:30 while Uta Wendland was second in 26:51. Sarah Kemper was third in 27:10.
XTERRA Oak Mountain was presented by Paul Mitchell, and our great sponsors from Shelby County, Suunto, OOFOS, Gatorade Endurance, XTERRA Fitness, XTERRA Boards, and the Shelby County Reporter. Special thanks to our volunteers, the Pelham Fire Department for taking such good care of our athletes, the good folks at Oak Mountain State Park, and all the BUMP members for maintaining the trails we love to race on each May.