BRAUN EARNS FIRST NATIONAL TITLE AT .US NATIONAL ROAD RACING CHAMPIONSHIPS
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
VA (17-Nov) — After injecting one surge after another, Aaron Braun
separated himself from chasers Shadrack Biwott and Tyler Pennel to win
the inaugural .US National Road Racing Championships here this morning.
Timing 34:28, Braun missed Steve Spence’s 12 kilometer American record
by two seconds, though was ecstatic after earning his first national
“I’ve been close so many times,” Braun, 26, told members
of the media moments after crossing the finish line next to the Potomac
River. “So many times I’ve been right there and got second or third. I
didn’t want to let it go down to a kick. If it did I’d be ready for it,
but it’s so great to finally cross the line and be U.S. champion.”
brick houses lining Old Town Alexandria, Braun established his spot up
front within the race’s first mile. As planned, the father of one
wanted to be aggressive throughout the contest.
“I just wanted
to make a good honest pace. I didn’t want to mess around,” Braun said,
draped in an American flag with the winner’s medal around his neck.
each kilometer that passed, Braun seemed to inject a momentary spurt of
speed. Promptly the pack of about 16 would respond, led by four-time
Olympian Abdi Abdirahman and Biwott. The group went through five
kilometers in 14:29 with Braun a step in front.
confidently in his yellow adidas vest, Braun seemed poised and
comfortable. Each stride looked effortless, while his rivals seemed to
be keying off every move he made. In essence, Braun controlled the
destiny of the race.
Just like he had planned going into
today’s contest, the Adams State alum wanted to make a noticeable move
at the race’s turn around point at about 7 kilometers.
my coach talked about at that turn around point around 4.5 miles that
that would be the perfect time to make a move,” Braun said with a
smile. “In college, when you make a move I was strong enough to
immediately get rid of people. But with this kind of field, that wasn’t
going to happen. So I had to keep my foot on the pedal, keep it nice
and steady, and be able to hold that pace all the way to the finish and
hope it would eventually drop them.”
The move would shake up the group, yet core members Biwott, Pennel, Abdirahman, and Josphat Boit remained.
a bridge between miles five (8 km) and six (10 km), it appeared that
Abdirahman was readying for the final charge to the tape. That was when
disaster struck: coming off the bridge and taking a very sharp turn,
Abdirahman lost his footing. Falling to the ground hard, he let out a
“Oh my Goodness, I saw him [go down] and felt
sorry for him,” recounted Biwott. “I was worried running if he was OK
because I heard him going down hard and I looked back and saw him
holding his face. I was like ‘Oh my gosh. I hope he’s OK.’”
next time anyone would see Abdirahman was coming across the finish line
in a medical vehicle, draped in a paramedic jacket and with a drop of
blood on his left cheek.
As if in unison with Abdirahman’s
fall, Braun surged again, this time creating separation back to Biwott
and Pennel. What was a three-second lead at ten kilometers (which Braun
crossed in 28:48) soon became ten.
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Coming down the final
straightaway with the early morning sun on his right, Braun celebrated
with the victory in his pocket. Swept up in the emotion of his first
national title, Braun waved to the crowd before breaking the finish
tape in 34:28. Told he missed Steve Spence’s USATF-ratified American
record of 34:26 by two seconds, Braun simply shrugged it off with a
“It’d be cool to say I was an American record holder,
but it’s not like it’s one of those [major] records,” he said, noting
that it wasn’t on his radar coming into the race. “First national title
was absolutely the main focus.”
Braun credited his recent
racing success to moving back to Colorado and training under college
coach Damon Martin. This fall Braun has placed second at the USA 5-K
National Championships, timed 1:03:52 at the B.A.A. Half-Marathon,
taken third place at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5-K, and now
earned the $20,000 first-place prize here. Next up, he will try and
retain his title at the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving Day where
he jointly owns the course record with road racing legend Philemon
“I’m not plateauing,” said Braun. “To keep in this
sport you have to keep getting better, because everyone else is getting
better too. So if you’re staying the same you’re getting passed. I’m
determined to keep getting better year after year.”
late charge that saw him make up some ground, Biwott claimed second in
34:35. With his podium finish and Matt Tegenkamp’s eighth place
showing, Biwott earned enough points to overtake the latter on top of
the USA Running Circuit leaderboard, making him this year’s champion
and giving him an additional $6000 on top of his $10,000 second place
“If that’s true, then I’m a happy man,” said the former
University of Oregon Duck, speaking conservatively as he hadn’t yet
seen official results. “It’s great, man.”
Still in Biwott’s
legs was his third place finish at the USA Marathon Championships six
weeks ago. Despite the fatigue, he was pleased with how today’s race
“To be honest I’m exhausted. My legs are tired right now. I’ve never been so tired in a race like today,” he said.
out the top three in somewhat of a surprise was Pennel, who hadn’t
raced since the USA 10-K Championships at the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race last July, where he finished
14th overall and seventh among Americans.
“I had a great block
of training,” said Pennel, a member of North Carolina-based Zap
Fitness. “I took some risks hoping I was ready to run and that got
Finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, were
Christo Landry and Elliot Krause, 34:40 and 34:43, respectively.
Placing eighth, 22 seconds behind Braun was Tegenkamp, his final time
34:50. Teammate and fellow Jerry Schumacher-coached athlete Chris
Solinsky did not finish; his last registered split was 14:31 at 5
kilometers, just before he fell off the lead pack.
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