Lydia Kosgei — who admitted before the Bluegrass 10,000 on Saturday that she was debating whether to run the race — defended her title with a women's event record.
With some early stiff competition stiff competition from Biruktayit Yegeta, Kosgei finished in 34:39, nearly a minute better than her 35:32 finish last year and five seconds faster than the previous women's event record set by Kristy Orre in 1987.
"It's the crowd," the Eastern Kentucky University graduate said. "I was giving up, I was in pain, but the crowd, people cheering, even those who were running were cheering. I was like ... 'Where do they get the energy to cheer?'"
Kosgei, a native of Kenya, found herself putting on different shoes compared to last year's race.
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This year, she was the target. "I was with (Yegeta)," Kosgei said. "She's a tough competitor, she's really tough. She pushed me a lot. At some point I was giving up and I was like 'no no no, be tough."
An old adage from Rick Erdmann, her track-and-field coach at EKU, helped her overcome.
"When the going gets tough, you need to be mentally tougher," Kosgei said.
Tough she became, as she overcame severe cramping after the second mile to stay ahead of Yegeta, who was pressing. But it was Kosgei's last race of the season and she wanted to finish strong.
"I was like, 'It's the last race,'" she said. "I've been winning all these races and I don't want to finish by losing it. I'm just happy crossing that finishing line."
Winning the Bluegrass 10K holds special meaning to Kosgei, who lives in Richmond.
"This is an amazing race," she said. "Of all the races I've ran, this is the best race ever."
It's because of the people, she said, pointing to the large crowd gathered around the finish line.
"It's usually so small, but this is a huge place," she said. "It gives you motivation to go all the way."