Ben True Sets American Record

Wins Fourth B.A.A. 5K

Story By James O'Brien

On a picture-perfect day for racing through downtown Boston, New England-native Ben True stormed to his fourth B.A.A. 5K win, establishing a new American Record in in 13:20. True battled stride for stride with challengers Stephen Sambu and James Kibet, though came out on top at the finish adjacent to Boston Common.

This being Boston, it is fitting that the B.A.A. 5K has developed traditions of its own, among them that Ben True will come into town from his New Hampshire home with guns a-blazing. No less of a tradition is that Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel will also arrive, ready to race like the Olympic 5000m silver medlaist that he is. True and Gebremeskel are the patriarchs of this race, having together now won seven of the race’s nine editions.

In 2015, True scorched to an American record of 13:22 on this course. Last year, Gebremeskel showed no mercy for True’s ailing hip, stealing the win in a sturdy 13:39. Today, it was fair to say that all eyes were on the course record holder and the defending champion.

That is not to say that the race was theirs for the taking. Also in the field were last year’s third placer Sambu, Scottish miler Chris O’Hare, last year’s (and 2015’s) fourth place finisher Philip Langat (KEN), 2016 Olympic 5000m bronze medlist Hhagos Gebrhiwet and a whole bunch of other high octane performers, all capable of filling the top slot.

True and Gebremeskel went immediately to the front, closely shadowed by a slew of competitors. The one mile mark was passed in 4:20 with the group in tact; but, just as the Boston Marathon course has its segments of special significance, so too does the B.A.A. 5K course.

By the second mile and the famed stretch on Hereford Street, the clock read 8:42 (a mile split of 4:22) indicative of the barnstorming pace and, with five contenders remaining, of the fireworks that were soon to come.

Making the left turn onto Boylston Street, the Boston Marathon finish line stood directly ahead as an inspiring sight. Close to the finish line, Kibet wound up the pace, forcing the pack to elongate behind him. True held closest, running in the new leader’s footsteps, with Sambu, Langat and Gebremeskel in single file behind him. That was the move that helped decide the outcome. From there on, all throttles were wide open.

Maybe it was predictable, given a surge so far from home, but Kibet was the first to run low on gas. Sensing the weakness, True forced his way into the lead and Sambu chased hard behind him. Making the hard left turn off Boylston Street and into the long home straight on Charles Street, True saw the clock. “It definitely made me dig a bit deeper,” he stated. Aware that Sambu was charging hard on his heels, True opened it up even more, scorching through the finish line in a time of 13:20, a two second improvement on his own US record. Sambu crossed two seconds later, with Kibet third in 13:28.

“The record was in the back of my mind,” the 31-year-old True revealed, “but it wasn’t something that I was aiming for at the start. People know my tactics; I generally like to sit in. This year, I’m trying to change things up and put my nose in there a bit more.”

For the fourth time, True raised the B.A.A. 5K trophy above his head. Achieving another American record, he celebrated with his fellow New Englanders on a magnificent One Boston Day.

Philip Langat was fourth in 13:30; Dejen Gebremeskel was fifth in 13:35; and Georgia’s Kirubel Erassa was sixth in 13:42, a step up on Hagos Gebrhiwet (13:42).