By Don Kardong, Bloomsday
Spokane, Washington—Two of the fastest women on the planet, Ethiopians Buze Diriba and Mamitu Daska, are expected to battle for the win this weekend in the 41st running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run. The men’s race, meanwhile, will feature all of last year’s top five finishers, including champion Philip Langat of Kenya, who enjoyed a 12-second margin of victory last year over runnerup Isaac Mwangi, also of Kenya. Mwangi is a past winner of both Bay to Breakers and Bolder Boulder, but has yet to add a Bloomsday title to his resume.
The women’s race is especially compelling since it pits Diriba, the 23-year old who has already had a number of top performances this year—including a second place at the recent Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, DC—and Daska, ten years older and a seasoned competitor who owns the third and fifth fastest times ever run on Bloomsday’s 12-kilometer course.
“I think we have two competitors who could give us one of the greatest duels in Bloomsday history,” said Elite Athlete Coordinator Jon Neill. “It’s rising star versus storied veteran.”
Kenya’s Mary Wangui, Jane Kibii and Risper Gesabwa look to challenge, but it’s unlikely they will be able to match the blistering pace of the Ethiopians. Tara Welling of Portland, Oregon will be the top US competitor, and 3-time US Olympian Jen Rhines looks to be the favorite in the masters category. 2015 and 2016 Bloomsday champion Cynthia Limo will not be returning after giving birth to a baby girl in January.
On the men’s side, the return of all last year’s top five—Langat, Mwangi, Philemon Cheboi, MacDonard Ondara and Eliud Ngetich—presents an unusual opportunity for someone to put their Bloomsday experience to use.
“I always say that the course rewards experience,” said Neill, “And with five very experienced racers going head to head, we may see different tactical moves than in the past.”
Those five will have plenty of company, including Ethiopians Teshome Asfaha and Deriba Merga. Asfaha won last summer’s prestigious Boilermaker 15k, and Merga was the 2009 Boston Marathon champion. Top US runners in the field include Scott Fauble of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Scott Bauhs of San Luis Obispo, California. Last year’s masters champion, Uli Steidl of Seattle, is back to defend his title.
Wheelchair competition at Bloomsday will include nine of the top ten finishers from 2016, including past champions James Senbeta (2016) and Josh George (2014, 2015). Laurens Molina of Costa Rica has a number of runnerup finishes at Bloomsday, while 18-year-old Daniel Romanchuk of Mount Airy, Maryland, may be ready to show the older wheelers that he’s ready to pull an upset.
On the women’s side, former champion and local superstar Susannah Scaroni will be back and chasing the course record as she goes for her fourth Bloomsday victory. In the Quad 52 division, 23-year-old Ray Martin, a two-time Paralympian, looks to chase the course record of 12-time champion Santiago Sanz, who retired from racing last year.
“This is an intriguing wheelchair field, including five US athletes from the Rio Paralympic team,” said Wheelchair Coordinator Bob Murphy.
Nearly $100,000 in prize money is offered in the 2017 Lilac Bloomsday Run, including a $10,000 purse ($5,000 - $2,500 - $1,250 - $750 - $500) for the top male and female Americans who finish in the top 25. The Lilac Bloomsday Run is the third race in the PRRO Circuit of major U.S. road races. Drug testing of top competitors is conducted at all PRRO Circuit events in partnership with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
A field of nearly 43,000 runners and walkers are expected to have entered by the time registration closes on Saturday evening. Procrastinators will have until 6:30 on Saturday to sign up.