Outstanding Women’s Field Enters Credit Union Cherry Blossom;
Kenyan and Japanese Athletes Battle in Men’s Race
Former world record holder in the marathon Catherine Ndereba has joined the field for the 32nd running of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom on Sunday, April 4th. Ndereba became the second woman in history to crack the 2:20:00 marathon barrier when she won the 2001 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in 2:18:47 (Japan’s Naoko Takahashi had run 2:19:46, just a week earlier in Berlin). Ndereba’s sterling resume includes two wins at the Boston Marathon, a second win in Chicago, and a gold medal at the 2003 World Championships Marathon in Paris. Ndereba, who will go for a third title in Boston on April 19th and is making her first Washington area appearance, will be pitted against fellow Kenyan Isabella Ochichi, who clocked a 14:53 5k last weekend in the Carlsbad (CA) 5000, one of the fastest women’s 5k
road times ever; and defending champion Olga Romanova, who placed
sixth at the IAAF World Cross Country 4k event in Brussels – one second ahead of Ochichi -- just two weeks ago. Interestingly, Ndereba’s brother, Samuel Ndberba, will compete in the men’s race.
“This will be a real barnburner of a women’s race,” said Event Director Phil Stewart. “It will be interesting to see if this trio can bear down on Colleen DeReuck’s course record of 51:16 set back in 1998. The talent is definitely here.”
There will be a host of other foreign women hoping to earn a share of the $30,000 purse, largest in the Washington, DC area. Romanova’s Rockville based agent Konstantin Selinevich is bringing in three more top Russians, and another Russian trio will travel to Washington from their training headquarters in Gainesville, Fla. Poland’s Renata Paradowska, last year’s fifth-place finisher in 55:22, is also sure to figure in the mix, along with Naomi Wangui, from Kenya and Atalelech Ketema from Ethiopia.
The top American woman is Jody Hawkins, from Texas, one of the top distance runners in the world in 1993 and ’94 and a member of the Army’s World Class Athletes training program. But that was before osteoporosis left her with multiple fractures in her hips, legs and spine. Hawkins has since recovered and is looking to start anew in Washington.
“I don’t take anything for granted anymore,” Hawkins said. “Every effort is my best.”
About the only thing certain in the men’s race is that neither Kenyan John Korir nor Reuben Cheruiyot will be in town to continue their rivalry. The duo have alternated as race champions and runners-up extending back to 1999.
However, it may not be a cakewalk for the Kenyan runners who have won 11 of the last 12 men’s titles. Marking the cultural exchange between the United States and Japan that is at the essence of Washington’s Cherry Blossom festival, Japanese athletes Tsuyoshi Nakano, Masato Ando and Kazuo Ietani are expected to provide significant competition. The Credit Union Cherry Blossom established a “sister” race relationship with the Hemiji 10-mile in Japan earlier this year which opened the door for talented Japanese athletes to make a rare U.S. appearance here.
The race marks a return to top competition for Joseph Kamau, a talented Kenyan runner who raced to a string of top performances in 1995-1997 including a second at the 1997 Boston Marathon (2:10:41 PR) and wins at the ’95 Falmouth Road Race, the ’95 and ’96 Philadelphia Half Marathon, and the ’96 Crim 10 mile where he clocked a very fast 45:43 course record time, just 5-seconds off the record here.
And just as the cherry blossoms are more than simply flora, the race is more than simply a 10–mile event. An expo with race mementos, merchandise, clinics and seminars will take place all day Saturday at race headquarters hotel, the Washington Renaissance. Four-time Boston and New York City Marathon Champion Bill Rodgers will give a clinic at 1 p.m. at the hotel.
This year’s charity recipient is the Children’s Miracle Network, which will receive a $325,000 donation, a $135,000 increase over last year. The event also is funding two $4,000 grants for developing U.S. distance runners as part of the American Association of Running Clubs/Road Runners Club of America Road Scholars program.
Credit Union Miracle Day Inc., a partnership of Credit Unions and affiliated organizations, is the title sponsor for the third straight year. More than 500 Credit Union members have volunteered and nearly 4,000 entrants are Credit Union members.
Supporting sponsors include Gatorade, Navy Federal Credit Union, and Metro Run & Walk. The race’s contributing sponsor is Fitness Image Results.
Entries for the 10-mile are closed, but runners may participate in the 5k Fun Run, and children 12-and-under may sign up for the Kids 1k Run on race day. No advance registration is required, just show up in West Potomac Park by 7:15, a.m., sign-up, and run. There is no entry fee for these events.
The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is part of the 2004 National Cherry Blossom Festival from March 27 to April 11. The race will be televised on local ABC affiliate WJLA in a half-hour special from 12 noon – 12:30 on Saturday, April 10th.
Support Our Sponsors
Striders Summer 2001 Schedule
Fredericksburg Grand Prix
Fleet Feet - DC
Fleet Feet - VA&MD