The past two days encapsulate the globe-trotting life of Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa. On Friday, the 21-year old runner arrived in South Carolina, via Frankfurt, Germany, from his country’s capital, Addis Ababa, where he lives and trains. On Saturday morning in Charleston, S.C., Desisa won the Cooper River Bridge 10K run in 28 minutes and 59 seconds — a time he insists was slow because he was saving himself for Sunday.
Immediately following that race, Desisa hopped on another plane to the District, where his winning ways and energy-saving strategy came through. On a brisk Sunday morning, he tore through the 39th Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, claiming first place in 45:36, breaking a 16-year race record by two seconds.
Two race wins, 8,200 miles by plane and nearly 16 miles by foot in three days.
“I want to compete all the time,” said Desisa through an interpreter. “When there is a chance to run, I’m going to run.”
Desisa held back a little to start. But by Mile Five of a course that weaved through the monuments, along the Potomac River and through cherry blossom-lined streets, Desisa and Kenyan Allan Kiprono, 21, surged toward the front of the field of 16,000.
Both runners then pushed the tempo, widening their lead over third-place finisher Ridouane Harroufi by as much as 50 yards. They covered the seventh mile in 4:23. It wasn’t until the final mile that Desisa used a final burst of energy to charge past Kiprono, who finished in 45:41.
“He is a good runner,” said Desisa, who won $8,250. “I was just testing to see how he would go. I saw he was good so we kept on trading the lead.”