By Budd Bailey, Buffalo News
The 30th running of the Subaru 4 Mile Chase featured one thrilling finish, one dominating performance, and two winners from Ethiopia.
Bado Worku and Bizunesh Deba were the winners of the event, which took place in 80-degree temperatures in Buffalo Friday night. They each earned $1,000 for their efforts.
The men’s race looked like it was going to be a good one almost from the opening gun. It took less than a half-mile for a lead pack to develop. Derese Rashaw had a step on the field for the most part, but Samuel Ndereba, Rashaw, Worku Beyi, three-time defending champion Demese Tefera and Canadian Dylan Wykes were close behind.
Around the first mile marker, Tefera apparently suffered some sort of injury and dropped out of the race, eliminating the chance for a four-peat. Wykes looked at the clock and knew he was in for a struggle.
“They make it tough, there’s no doubt about that,” said Wykes, who is from Kingston, Ont. went on to finish fifth. “That first mile was smokin’, way over my head. It was 4:24 or something. I wanted to try to have fun. Time wasn’t really an issue. I just wanted to stick my nose in there and try to run with those guys. I did it for a mile and a half, and then I slowed down.”
The other four runners were by themselves for the last 2½ miles. Ethiopia’s Rashaw had the lead, but Worku was running easily and smoothly behind him. The lead pack at one point ran four abreast with only a few blocks remaining.
“A good finish was my strategy. I was confident I could win at the end,” Worku said.
It was a sprint to the finish, and Worku came in at 18 minutes, 31 seconds. Kenya’s Ndereba was second in 18:32, Rashaw was third in 18:33, and Beyi of Ethiopia was fourth in 18:37. It would take some research to figure out if it was the closest four-man finish in the race’s history, but it certainly is a contender for that title.
It’s been a good summer for Worku. He won a half-marathon in Fairfield, Conn. in late June, and finished second in another half-marathon in Duluth, Minn. the week before. Last year, he was named the Fred LeBow Award winner by the New York Road Runners.
In the women’s race, Deba took all of the suspense out of the race at the start. She jumped ahead and didn’t have to look back. Deba took first place in 20:53, almost a minute faster than Laurel Burdick of Minoa. Jessica Odorcic of Madison, Ohio, was third in 21:59.
“It was my strategy,” Deba said about jumping out from the start. “I’m happy with my time.”
Paula Wiltse of Brockville, Ont., who finished second among masters, added, “She [Deba] was just gone. She was on her own the whole way.”
The Ethiopian showed some improvement in the Subaru from last year to this year.
“I ran last year and finished in second place,” she said. When asked if she’d be back to defend her title, she replied emphatically, “Yes.”
Deba has had quite a year already, as she said, “This year I’ve run a lot of races. I feel really good.” Her most memorable win of 2010 came in the Washington, D.C., area in late April, when she ran in the George Washington Parkway 10-mile event. Not only did she win, but her husband, Worku Beyi, won the men’s division. Deba also won the Duluth (Minn.) Marathon in an impressive 2:31:35 in June.
The idea behind the race is to give local runners a chance to compete against some superb runners. Liz Randell of Buffalo came away impressed.
“It’s amazing. … It’s a very elite group,” she said.
Wiltse said, “When you line up with women like that, it’s an honor. Where else do you get a chance to do that?”
Conditions were considered on the warm side for the race, although they weren’t considered oppressive by most.
“It was hot,” Wykes said. “It could be worse. You had the wind against you at times, and that was tough. But then, when the wind was behind you, that was really hot. It was a lose-lose situation.”
In the masters division, Charlie Kern — a Sweet Home graduate who now lives in Elmhurst, Ill. — took top honors at 20:31. He edged Joseph Ekuom of New Paltz by four seconds.
In the women’s masters, Ramilia Burangulova of Gainesville, Fla., won in 22:22. She was well ahead of Wiltse (23:22).
Among local runners, the top male was Dennis Pollow Jr. of Ransomville. He was eighth in 19:26. Maura Frauenhofer of Williamsville topped the women with a fifth-place performance in 22:23.