Kenyans Sambu, Saina win 7-mile Race in Sacramento, CA
Sambu, making his Falmouth debut, pressed the pace from the start in Woods Hole and steadily pulled away from a group that included defending champion and two-time Falmouth winner Micah Kogo of Kenya.
Sambu finished in 31 minutes, 46 seconds — 45 seconds ahead of Kogo in a field of 12,800 for the 42nd edition of the race. Sambu captured the B.A.A. 10K in Boston in June in 27:25, the fastest in the world this year.
Kenya’s Emmanuel Bett was third, ahead of Ben Bruce of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Andrew Colley of Williamsburg, Virginia.
Meb Keflezigh, the 2014 Boston Marathon champion, decided to participate but not compete because of a tight hamstring, organizers said. He finished in 43:32, running much of the way with former Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson and race director Dave McGillivray.
Sembu, who trains in Arizona with countryman Bernard Lagat, set a torrid pace and had discussed the strategy with coach James Li.
“That was the plan,” he said. “I knew the start was uphill so I was pushing a lot.”
Sembu said he never felt he was in danger of getting caught.
“I was confident,” he said. “I was feeling good the whole way.”
Kogo was in a group of four runners early that included American Bruce and Kenyan Kennedy Dithuka. Bruce and Dithuka fell off the pace, and it was a two-man race until Sembu took off at about the 4-mile mark.
Kogo said the downhills in the race bothered him, and Sembu took advantage
“After five miles I started feeling my body was responding,” he said.
Bruce said he and Colley raced with and against each other and were happy with their finish, given the quality of the field.
“To have both of us in the top five is great,” he said.
Saina led a field in which four women finished within 21 seconds of each other. Saina was timed in 35:56, seven seconds ahead of Britain’s Gemma Steel. Molly Huddle of Providence, Rhode Island,was third, followed by Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi.
The first four finishers ran as a group for about 4 miles until Saina and Steel slowly drew away.
“We started really easy at the beginning,” Saina said. “Molly is a very good athlete.”
In November, Huddle became the fastest woman in history at 12K (37:50); in June, she broke the American record for a women-only 10K.
“Around four miles, Betsy and Gemma pulled away,” Huddle said. “I felt pretty rough. They just kind of broke me there and I was trying to maintain third.”
Two course records were set in the wheelchair division. James Senbeta of Champaign, Illinois, who has been racing for only a couple of years, won in 23:32. Tatyana McFadden of Clarksville, Maryland, was the top woman in 27:06.