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Garden of the Gods 10-Mile Run & 5K draw 1,600 runners
10-Mile Run Women' Results: Here
5K Men's Results: Here
5K Women's Results: Here
With runners battling a fierce, persistent wind throughout the morning, Sunday’s Garden of the Gods 10-Mile Run didn’t cater to record-breaking times. The race’s quickest runner was more than three minutes behind the record pace Simon Cheprot set in 2009.
But a pair of Garden of the Gods 10-Mile rookies – Teklu Deneke and Lauren Kleppin - were the first to cross the finish line in Manitou Springs in the men's and women's divisions. Averaging a 5-minute, 31-second mile during the first five miles and accelerating to a 5:17 pace in the second half of the race, Deneke mustered a late sprint that powered him to victory.
“I just led the last mile,” Deneke said, with a wide smile. “I passed (the leader), I pushed myself and then I won. Everybody who comes here likes to win.”
A 32-year-old native of Ethiopia, Deneke trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., at an elevation slightly higher than the 6,200 feet of this course, something he saw as critical to finding the late burst of energy.
Close behind Deneke was Benard Langat, 29, of Santa Fe, N.M., and then hometown favorite Ryan Hafer, 26. As a back-and-forth battle ensued among a pack of top runners by the race’s midway point, Hafer, who ran for Harvard before returning to his hometown of Colorado Springs, decided against an all-out finish.
“Definitely real happy with it,” Hafer said of his third-place finish. “I was in the mix to win, just tried to hold onto a good race. I was contemplating, 'Do I go for it? Do I try to bridge this 50-meter gap over the last couple miles?' I wasn’t sure how that would pan out if I went for it and blew up for the last couple miles.”
The women's 10-Mile competition wasn’t nearly as tight through the scenic sandstone rock formations. Kleppin pulled away quickly and dusted her closest competitor by almost a 6-minute margin. An All-American while suiting up for Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison, Kleppin said she spent most of the race running alongside the men.
Fighting through the daunting hills and wind that slowed the pace, Kleppin, a 23-year-old from Fort Collins, felt that her “slow and easy” approach early in the race paid off.
“I came around a corner and all of a sudden was like ‘Wow, it is windy',” said Kleppin, who is a “B” standard qualifier for the 10K Olympics squad. “I just ran it comfortable, but maybe around mile five I knew I could finish it and start just picking people off."
The Garden of the Gods 10-Mile Run is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Running, a series that concludes with August’s Pikes Peak Ascent. For Hafer, who won the Ascent in 2005, Sunday’s road race was part of preparing for the grueling 13.3-mile climb up Pikes Peak.
But for Kleppin, the Garden of the Gods was primarily an enjoyable way to spend a weekend morning.
"I just came off of my final track season, and I’m still fit so I figured I’d go have fun, see Colorado in a different light,” Kleppin said.