Jordan Chipangama wins the mens division of the U-T California 10/20 race, which began and finished at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Howard Lipin/U-T San Diego
To save money for the race director, Jordan Chipangama of Zambia and Kenya’s Macdonard Ondara shared a hotel room the night before the inaugural U-T California 10/20.
“We know each other. We are friends,” said Ondara.
And for 9½ miles of the 10-mile race they shared the road, Chipangama hugging Ondara’s shoulder most of the way, drafting off his fellow African.
But with half a mile to go, on the dirt near horse stables on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Chipangama bid his buddy farewell. Chipangama outkicked Ondara, winning in 48 minutes even. Per-mile pace: 4 minutes, 48 seconds.
Ondara finished second in 48:05.
“Today,” said Ondara, “he was the better man.”
In the women’s race, New Yorker Lindsey Scherf left no doubt who was the fastest female in the field. Scherf cruised to victory, finishing in 54 minutes, 49 seconds, a 5:28 per-mile pace.
San Diegan Natasha LeBeaud Anzures placed second in 57:01. Chipangama and Scherf each earned $3,000 for the wins.
On a gray, cool, fog-shrouded morning – nirvana for the athletes – 3,230 runners, walkers and wheelchair racers took off from the fairgrounds in front of the Mission Tower.
After winding their way on dirt through back corrals, the field headed toward the beach, running along the ocean on Coast Highway, north past the Cardiff Kook, then hung a U-turn home. Twenty bands entertained runners along the way.
Here’s how focused Ondara was: he never noticed the three-mile stretch parallel to the Pacific Ocean, with small waves crashing, stand-up paddle boarders and surfers barely in the distance. Counting the return home, it’s six miles of one of the county’s most spectacular views.
“It was foggy,” said Ondara. “And I was focused.”
Chipangama, 25, raced at Northern Arizona, earned a nursing degree and works at a Flagstaff nursing home. He has run a 2-hour, 13-minute marathon and hopes to represent Zambia in the marathon at the 2016 Barcelona Olympics.
Ondara, 29, lives in Santa Fe, N.M. He moved to the United States six years ago.
They had faced each other once on the roads, in an 8K last year in New Orleans, Ondara finishing sixth, one spot and six seconds ahead of Chipangama.
Two miles in Sunday’s race, Chipangama said to Ondara, “We have to go fast.”
They downshifted and pulled away from Sergio Reyes, who placed third, far back in 49:30. Sensing Chipangama was blessed with more speed (read a dangerous finishing kick), Ondara tried to pull away.
“I tried to push so I could drop him earlier,” said Ondara.
“He’s the real deal,” said Chipangama. “The question was who would be faster at the end.”
Down the main fairgrounds walkway, where San Diego County fairgoers lazily stroll in summer, Chipangama blistered home to victory.