Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia returned to the city Sunday for the Boston Athletic Association 10K. Following his second-place finish behind Kenya’s Stephen Sambu, Desisa presented his Boston Marathon medal to Mayor Thomas Menino to honor the city and those killed and injured in the April 15 terrorist bombings.
“My heartfelt condolences go out to all the families who lost loved ones, and to all those who were injured I wish a full and fast recovery,” said Desisa to the crowd on the Boston Common. “We promise that next year in 2014 we will return to Boston to show our support and to show that our spirit and our commitment to freedom is stronger than any act of violence.”
The 10K was the second race of the BAA Distance Medley, which also includes a 5K in April and a half-marathon in October. The male and female with the lowest cumulative time at the end of the series win a $100,000 payday. During registration in January, 2,050 signed up for the series.
Desisa, 23, who is training for August’s World Championships in Moscow and is not participating in the Distance Medley, said his decision to run Sunday was specifically to dedicate his medal to the people of Boston. He finished in 28 minutes 15 seconds, nine seconds behind Sambu.
Sambu, 24, is a graduate of the University of Arizona, where he was a six-time All-American. With Sunday’s win, he displaced Aaron Braun of Flagstaff, Ariz., as the men’s distance medley leader. Braun, 26, who won the BAA 5K, finished seventh Sunday in 29:59.
“The conditions were good today; a little humid, but not too bad,” said Sambu. “I do my training in Arizona so I have no problem when it’s warm. The first 5K was a little bit slow, but the last 5 was fast. I was thinking that even if I didn’t win, I would definitely be second.”
A convert from racing on the track, Sambu is relatively new to road racing, but is off to a good start. Earlier this year he was seventh at the New York City Half Marathon and fourth at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington.
“It is so nice [to win] because I know this guy [Desisa] was very good in sprinting,” said Sambu. “When we turned that last corner, I thought maybe I could pass him, and when I tried, I did. Now I am leading, so this gives me confidence because I want to maintain that pace. A half marathon is fast, you know, anything can happen.”
Filling out the top five in the men’s race were Daniel Salel of Kenya (28:30), Allan Kiprono of Kenya (28:36), and Raji Assefa of Ethiopia (28:46). Tadesse Biratu of Malden (30:21) and Mark Amirault of Walpole (30:48) placed eighth and 10th.
Dan Harper of Somerville, Nate Jenkins of North Andover, Colman Hatton of Boston, and Justin Lutz of Concord all finished in the top 15.
In the women’s race, defending BAA Distance Medley champion Kim Smith, 31, of New Zealand came in second behind Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska, 29, who finished in 31:45. Smith, who is still recovering from an Achilles’ injury she sustained a month ago, hopes to begin training for the BAA Half Marathon after another week or two of rest.
“I did everything I could to race today,” said Smith, a resident of Providence. “Winning the Distance Medley last year, I knew I had to try to defend it. It was just a matter of getting through this race. I raced the girls who were in the series with me and didn’t worry about the others.”
The BAA Half Marathon, staged in Franklin Park, will be Oct. 13.Cat Calsolaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.