Leonard Korir, a Kenyan native, won his third national title since becoming an U.S. citizen in June 2016 when he won the USATF Half Marathon Championships that was held as part of the 2017 OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon.
Korir, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo., edged friend and training partner Sam Chelanga, also of Colorado Springs, at the finish line to win in 1:03:04. Chelanga also clocked a 1:03:04. Defending champion Christo Landry of Charlotte, N.C., was third in 1:03:13.
Natosha Rogers, of Littletown, Colo., competing in a half marathon for the first time, won the women’s national championship in 1:10:45.
Korir was part of a lead pack of runners that dwindled from seven to four between miles 10 and 12, with Kiya Dandena also in contention.
“The plan was to come here and win the race,” said Korir, a member of the U.S. Army since 2015. “My goal was to save as much as possible. When somebody made a move, I wanted to be ready to cover that move. But I really didn’t know the course that well so I waited until the final mile.”
Korir won the 2017 USATF Cross Country Championships in Bend, Ore., in February and the USATF 15K Road Championships in Jacksonville, Fla., in March. He also won the Chevron Houston Half Marathon in January.
In 2016, Landry pulled away at mile 10 and was not challenged in winning in 1:02:52. Yesterday was a different story.
“I was not feeling as strong as I was last year,” he said. “I tried to stay with these guys and felt I had an advantage because I knew the course better. I thought maybe I could blow by them at the end, but that never materialized and they blew me away.”
Rogers, 25, and Aliphine Tuliamuk, 28, were a lead pack of two for much of the women’s race. Neely Spence Gracey, 27, trailed by 40 seconds after 8 miles but battled back to finish second in 1:10:54. Tuliamuk, a Kenya native who became a U.S. citizen in June and has since was four national titles (Cross Country, 25K, 20K and 5K), was third.
“I decided to run this race about a month ago and I decided I was going to win this race about a month ago,” Rogers said. “I really needed a win in my career. I put in a lot of hard work with lots of changes to my training. It’s awesome to have it pay off. Finally.”
Spence Gracey, of Boston, has a unique connection to Columbus. Her father, Steve, won the Columbus Marathon in 1990 and the U.S. Olympic Trials in Columbus in 1992.
“It was cool to know that he had run on these same streets before,” she said. “I decided to run this race about a month ago and I decided I was going to win this race about a month ago.
The USATF Half Marathon Championships were held in conjunction with the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon, Quarter Marathon and Commit To Be Fit 5K. An estimated 14,000 runners and walkers took part. Severe thunderstorms and lightning caused the event to be halted about 10am. Almost 8,000 participants were able to finish.
Dustin Whitehead of Columbus, Ohio, representing Columbus Running Club, won the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon in 1:12:14. Andi Ripley of Rockford, Mich., was the top female finisher at 1:24:26.
Daniel Williard of Canal Winchester, Ohio won the OhioHealth Quarter Marathon in 36:46. Minori Minagawa, also of Columbus Running Club, was the top women’s finisher in 41:21.
Top finishers in the Commit To Be Fit 5K were Gregory Kuhl of Canal Winchester (17:33) and Nanami Campbell (24:23).