Shadrack Kipchirchir didn’t see his wife — Elvin Kibet — cross the finish line at last year’s Cooper River Bridge Run.
When the couple returned to their home in Colorado Springs, Colo., he didn’t hear the end of it.
He wasn’t going to make the same mistake Saturday morning.
After Kipchirchir sprinted across the finish line to win the 41st Cooper River Bridge Run in a time of 28 minutes and 25 seconds — just a second ahead of runner-up Benard Ngeno — he shrugged off well-wishers and the media waiting for his bride to finish the 10,000-meter race that featured 27,414 runners.
Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase won the women’s division in time of 32:19.
Kipchirchir, who became just the sixth person to win back-to-back races, didn’t have to wait too long to greet his wife at the finish line. Kibit, who was the runner-up in last year’s event, ran into her husband’s arms about five minutes later, placing seventh among all women competitors.
“Last year, I was doing interviews after I won and out of the corner of my eye I see her sprinting to the finish line, but I didn’t she her cross,” Kipchirchir said. “Oh my goodness, she would not stop talking about it when we got home. So, this year, I know I have to wait for her, wait to see her finish, and that’s what I did. I don’t think there’s a better feeling than giving her a hug when she’s done. She did awesome. I’m so proud of her, the field was much tougher this year.”
On those days when Kipchirchir is feeling a little lazy and just doesn’t want to train, his wife always seems to find a way to get him out of the house.
“She keeps me motivated,” Kipchirchir said. “Sometimes I don’t want to go for a run and she will just get my shoes, lace them up, and then push me out the door and we go for a run.”
With gun-time temperatures at 68 degrees, the humidity hovering near 70 percent and a strong head wind heading up the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the 6.2-mile course was especially challenging. Kipchirchir’s finishing time was 13 seconds slower than last year’s winning time and more than 45 seconds off the course record of 27:40. Born in Kenya, Kipchirchir became an American citizen in 2010. The 29-year-old joined the U.S. Army in 2014, and was a 2016 Olympian and a finalist in the 2017 World Championships at 10,000 meters.
Ngeno took off at the start line, setting a blistering pace of 4:15 over the first mile. Kipchirchir had seen this strategy before from Ngeno and was content to sit back behind the 21-year-old Kenyan and let him do most of the work and buffer the strong winds on the bridge.
“Two weeks ago, he did the same thing so I wasn’t surprised,” Kipchirchir said. “When I saw him take off, my goal was to not let him go. He’s human, so if I’m going to die, he’s going to die, too. I just ran off his shoulder until we got into the city.”
As soon as Kipchirchir hit Meeting Street for the final push, he made his move with Ngeno right behind him. And, much like last year, Kipchirchir’s kick at the end was too much.
“It’s a great feeling. I’m going to come to Charleston for this race every year,” Kipchirchir said. “I love this place.”
Jacob Baranowski, 24, a student at MUSC won the Marcus Newberry award for the top local finisher. Baranowski, who ran at the University of Indiana, finished in a time of 33:08. Sara Ashton, 33, of Daniel Island, was the women’s Marcus Newberry winner.
Jose Pulido won the wheelchair division in a time of 31:04.
The 27,414 competitors that crossed the finish line were down from last year’s total of 32,541.