They ran up a hill ... and missed records by less than 3 seconds

Andrea Limón of México City nears the end of the Miguel Reyes 5k at Woodward Park.
Andrea Limón of México City nears the end of the Miguel Reyes 5k at Woodward Park.

There were no thrills on the last hill of the Woodward Park 5-kilometer course for neither Andrea Limón nor Robert Gaithou Gititu on Sunday (Aug. 4).

The elite runners were pretty close on pace to break the course records during the Miguel Reyes 5K before the last steep hill zapped their momentum.

Limón – a 26-year-old accountant/marketing expert from México City who began running seven years ago – settled for a still-fast time of 16 minutes, 33.2 seconds to capture the women’s title.

Gititu – a 36-year-old Kenyan who trains in Toluca, México – bested an elite men’s field with a 14:27.9 clocking.

Yet, neither broke the course records.

Limón missed Claudia Lane’s mark of 16:31; Gititu was off Germán Fernández’s standard of 14:24.

That’s less than 3 seconds off what could have been a $500 cash award for snapping the records.

Both winners blamed that short but steep hill that brings the runners up from a tree-lined dirt path, across a paved road and another dirt trail that runs parallel to Highway 41.

Limón: ‘I do need that record next year’

Limón sprinted to the front of the female field, which included Weslie Pierce (second at 17:06.1) and countrywoman Mitzari Lozano (third in 17:35.7). That was her strategy.

“I said, ‘I will break the record,’ but I missed by two seconds,” said Limón, who has improved this year under a new coach and more maturity in a sport that is still relatively new to her.

She didn’t care about her mile split (5:13).

“I don’t care about the mile time; but I care about the record, so I ran as fast as I could at the start,” said Limón, who spoke in perfect English after the race.

Twins Weslie Pearce and Chelsey Albertson approach the 1-mile mark in the Miguel Reyes 5k. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

“I was on pace, but that last hill was so difficult for me,” said Limón. “The final 400 meters I kept thinking about the record, the record, the record; but, I couldn’t run fast enough.”

Her quest of the course record might lead her back to Fresno next year.

“I do need that record next year. I would love to run her,” said Limón.

Limón thinks the 10k is her better distance because of the strategy involved in it. The 5k, she admits, is just based on speed.

Limón got a phone call the Thursday before the race.

“Andrea, do you want to come to Fresno and run a 5k?” was the question.

“Well, I can make a trip to Fresno,” she responded. “I didn’t even know Fresno existed.”

Mitzari Lozano of México City placed third in the women's division of the Miguel Reyes 5k in 17:35.7. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

The course was hilly, but fun, said Limón, who picked up $1,000 for the win and an additional $100 for breaking Ayla Granados’ race record of 16:59 set in 2018.

Women’s race notes:

Weslie Pearce and fourth-place finisher Chelsey Albertson (17:38.6) are twin sisters ... Runner-up Mitzari Lozano earned her degree in communications and journalism from UNAM on Aug. 8 ... Among the competitors was former College of the Sequioas star Yesenia Silva (25th overall, 18:57.0) and Olympic marathon qualifier Molly Friel (28th overall and the women’s masters winner in 19:24.0).

Gititu expected someone to push him

Not having someone to push him, Gititu had to rely on himself to push a record pace.

“I expected someone to push me at 4.5 kilometers,” said Gititu, who has been training in Toluca for the past two years because it’s easier to get to competitions.

That last hill, however, slowed him down too much.

“Even there, I was still driving,” he said. “That’s why I lost my pace.”

Kenyan Robert Gaitho Gititu, who trains in Toluca, México, won the Miguel Reyes 5k at Woodward Park. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

Gititu, who ran a 14:08 at a 5k race in Tijuana last month, is looking for a half-marathon for his next challenge. He finished second at the México City Half Marathon (1:06.42) on July 28.

“I like this course because it is like a cross country course should be, with ups and downs,” said Gititu.

Fresno’s CJ Albertson battled for second place with a time of 14:32.9 in Sunday’s race. He had expected a time of about 14:30.

“I felt like I had an average day,” said Albertson, the cross country coach at Clovis Community College. “You always want to have a great day, but if you have an average day, you can’t be upset with that.”

CJ Albertson approaches the 1-mile mark of the Miguel Reyes 5k in third place. He finished second. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

Albertson, who was running third at the 2-mile mark, was able to catch up and pass México City’s Jesús Arturo Esparza Pérez (third in 14:35.4).

“I came in here training to win, and training to run as fast as I could,” said Albertson, who resumed training about eight weeks ago following a “little ankle injury.”

Albertson’s strategy was to stay close with the early frontrunners (Gititu and Esparza Pérez), which he did.

“Somewhere around halfway they dropped me a little bit,” said Albertson. “They were surging up the hills. I’m not good at downhills; I’m not great at uphills yet. They broke away.”

Albertson will be back to training for the Olympic marathon trials and increase his mileage.

Men’s race notes:

Esparza Pérez’s twin brother, José Juan Esparza Pérez, placed fifth in the 10k at the Pan American Games in Lima, Perú, with a time of 13:56.65 ... Ray Winter, the men’s and women’s cross country coach at Fresno Pacific, won the men’s masters division in 17:22.4 ... The youngest finisher was 4-year-old C. Cortez of Fresno who ran the 5k in 34:50.3.