By Joseph Lacdan, ARNEWS
WASHINGTON — Specialist Haron Lagat raised his fist in triumph as he entered the final stretch of the 33rd Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., finishing with a winning time of 49:23 on Sunday.
A light rain had begun to fall on the unseasonably warm fall day, creating potentially dangerous conditions for runners, but it didn’t deter the team from the Army World Class Athlete Program. It was the second consecutive year that five Soldiers from WCAP finished in the top five places, and this year the top female runner was also from WCAP.
Sgt. Samuel Kosgei crossed the line second, followed by WCAP teammates Capt. Robert Cheseret in third and Spcs. Leonard Korir and Shadrack Kipchirchir.
“After five miles I took off,” said Lagat, a native of Kenya, who enlisted in the U.S. Army two years ago as a 12R electrician.
Perhaps the victory was sweet redemption for Lagat, who narrowly missed earning a place on the U.S. track team at the Olympic trials in 2016.
Along with a heavy training regimen, each member of the WCAP program runs up to 100 miles per week. The runners have the advantage of training in high altitude at Fort Carson, Colo., and they prepare themselves for different types of terrain including an uphill run each week.
The high-altitude training also helped prepare Carson’s other Soldiers who placed first in the active-duty men’s category. The Carson team placed first for the sixth time in seven years.
“We come to win,” said Fort Carson coach Ali Asgary. “We don’t have a plan B.”
A total of 35,000 runners took part in the race, which begins at the Pentagon, then winds over the Potomac and past the National Mall, before returning to the Defense Department headquarters. Due to the weather conditions this year, race organizers with the Military District of Washington downgraded the event to a recreational run for those who finished after 9 a.m. But WCAP and other runners overcame the elements.
“I think we all did great,” said Cheseret, who finished third. “Before the race we talked about running as a team, and I think we accomplished that. We all finished one through five as a team. … Everybody did what we wanted to do. So that’s why I’m proud of everyone.”
In the 2016 Ten-Miler, Fort Carson had its bid for a sixth straight first-place team finish snapped by Fort Bragg despite several Carson members setting personal records.
“When you start winning and then you win five times in a row you set the bar so high,” Asgary said.
The top female finisher was also from Fort Carson as a member of the WCAP team. Spc. Susan Tanui clocked a time of 56:53. Despite the heat and rainy conditions, Tanui still managed to eclipse her time of 58:27 in the 2014 Ten-Miler and over 59 minutes in 2016.
Also a native of Kenya and former All-American runner at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, Tanui credits the WCAP program and coaches with helping her train.
“It’s a great feeling,” Tanui said. “I did what I was hoping for, so it’s great that I maintained [the pace] all the way to the end.”
Kosgei finished second after placing 12th in 2016. A week earlier at the USA Track and Field championship 10-mile run, Kosgei said he succumbed to fatigue and finished 18th. For Kosgei and Cheseret, their top finishes are a stepping stone to another challenge: the U.S. Marathon Championships in December.
“I feel good. We won as a team,” said Kosgei, who finished first at the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon. “The goal was to win as a team; push together and that’s what we did.”
Rachel Booth, wife of Marine Corps Maj. Jonathan Booth, was the third female runner to cross the finish line. She decided to compete after joining a women’s running group from Charlottesville, Virginia.
“I’m excited with it. I didn’t have a lot of training buildup, mileage wise,” Booth said. “But I’m happy.”
Before the event, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley shared words of encouragement with the competitors, and Black Hawk helicopters provided a flyover. About 57 percent of the competitors were active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members or retired military, veterans, DOD civilians or military family members.