BOULDER — Mamitu Daska is unquestionably the current queen of the Bolder Boulder's elite women's 10K race.
The Ethiopian won her fourth title Monday well ahead of the rest of the field, finishing in 32 minutes, 21.63 seconds. She also won in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and was the runner-up in 2011. Only Portugal's Rosa Mota has more career Bolder Boulder victories with five.
Even with temperatures in the high 60s, and even with a hard early pace from Deena Kastor, Daska felt the pace was too slow. So she took off down the left side of a long straightaway before the first mile while the rest of the women followed the inside curve of the road.
The champion "did good training and felt the pace was easy at the beginning," Daska said through a translator.
That set the tone: If you want to win, prepare for bold moves and a long grind over the scorching pavement of this rolling, high-altitude course.
Shalane Flanagan, who most recently finished as the top American in the Boston Marathon, tried in vain to move with her. But the gap only grew with each passing mile — five seconds at mile one, then nine at two miles, 16, 22, 28 — until the finish: 43.48 seconds. Flanagan and Daska ran nearly the entire race solo.
"I think she knew I probably didn't have the adaptation to altitude, so I was a little cautious, even though that felt really fast for me," Flanagan said. "So I tried to be as cautious as possible but not give away the race. I didn't want to hand it to her. But I tried to keep her within distance to see if she faltered and misjudged herself."
About halfway through the race, Flanagan realized Daska wasn't coming back.
"At that point, the competitor in me — it was hard to let that go," she said. "But I was worried about the team aspect, and I was wanting to safely hold second for my team."
With Kastor's fourth-place finish and Sara Hall's 16th-place finish — a race Hall described as the most challenging she had ever run — the American women's Red team finished third behind Ethiopia and Kenya.
For Daska, there was only one regret: not breaking the course record of 32:13, set in 1995 by Kenya's Delillah Asiago in cool, rainy conditions.
"She says it's very difficult to run alone," Daska's translator said. "If she had other people, it would help her push the pace, and she would run a better time.
"She knows this course very well. She was planning to break the course record, but because of the hot weather, she wasn't able to."
Would she come back to try again?
"Yes, she hopes so," her translator said. So does Cliff Bosley, co-race director and co-founder.
Kastor, 41, turned in another stirring fourth-place finish. The roaring crowd of tens of thousands rose to its feet as she entered Folsom Field, a sign of respect for a woman whose status as a running legend becomes more solidified with dominant performances each passing year.
"My husband and coach, Andrew Kastor ... told me to take it out hard because we live at a higher altitude than Boulder," said Kastor, of 7,880-foot Mammoth Lakes, Calif. "So I knew that it was my intention to take the sting out of the rest of the field. In taking the sting out of myself the rest of the way, I was suffering quite a bit during the race."
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