Med student Martin Hehir sets Pittsburgh EQT 10-miler record
New York native and Philadelphia resident Martin Hehir has been to Pittsburgh before, making several trips with his buddies from Syracuse.
Not even Sunday’s gorgeous sunrise brushed into the background of the city’s scenic vistas could throw him off his pace at the 2018 EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler.
Once Hehir made the final right turn into the final straightaway, a field of more than 4,000 runners was whittled down to a two-man race, and all that was left was the final 2-mile stretch of Liberty Ave.
“It was down to me and Stephen (Sambu) probably around 6.5-7 (mile mark), and neither of us were giving each other an edge,” said the 25-year-old Hehir. “We were both hurting, but we couldn’t break each other. But then, there’s a 2-mile straightaway to the finish and, once we hit tha,t it was kind of heads down, and at about a 1.5 mile to go was when I put in that last little surge.”
Hehir’s final surge is what gave him the edge over Sambu as the second-year Thomas Jefferson University medical student surprised everyone but himself by taking first place and setting an event record in 46 minutes, 48 seconds.
“I come here to win,” Hehir said. “Coming into the race, it was a deep field, and I kind of knew that Stephen (Sambu) was the guy to beat. He was tried and true. He’s got a world record.”
Kenyans Dominic Korir (47:11) and Panuel Mkungo (47:13) finished third and fourth, respectively. Mkungo was the 2017 champion and was just 8 seconds off last year’s winning time of 47:03.
“It was a really fair course. It was actually fast,” Hehir said.
Last year’s third-place finisher Monicah Ngige, 24, of Kenya, broke from the women’s group around North Side’s mid-way point to win in 52:06. Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase came in at 53:04 to finish second, and Vicoty Chepngeno of Kenya crossed the finish line at 53:22 to come in third.
Kellyn Taylor, who recently became the world’s 7th fastest marathon runner, was the top U.S. finisher; placing fourth in 53:52.
“My training was going well, and I was looking forward to this race,” said Ngige. “I liked the new course. It was faster than last year.”
Hehir and Ngige earned the top money prizes of $5,000 and $4,000, respectively.
The newly redesigned 10-mile road race that begins in the morning shadows of Highmark Stadium, weaves through Pittsburgh’s West End, past Heinz Field and PNC Park, through the North Side, across the David McCullough Bridge and into the Strip District. It received rave reviews from runners. Hehir ended Sambu’s win streak while also setting a personal record. Sambu is the 8K world-record holder.
″(Sambu) beat me handily a couple months ago. It was nice to finally get him,” Hehir said.
There was a pack of about a half dozen runners, that included Point Park track coach and 2018 Richard Caligiuri City of Pittsburgh Great Race winner Jim Spisak, that began to establish itself just as they were about about the cross the West End Bridge, at around the 2-mile mark. Spisak fell off at the midway point, just as Hehir and Sambu started to separate themselves from the group.
The first Western Pa. runners to finish were Travis Myers-Arrigoni, 26, of Pittsburgh and Leah Anne Wirfel, 25, of Fredonia. Myers-Arrigoni finished first in the 25-29 age group (14th overall) in 53:49. Wirfel finished the race in 1:00.1 to take first in the 25-29 group (13th overall) in the women’s division.
“I love Pittsburgh, and I’ve been here a few times to see old friends,” Hehir said. “It’s a great city and really good vibes here, and this time of year it’s perfect weather and good for a 10-mile race.”