Tucson’s Paula Morrison came up short in earlier races this year, so Saturday’s outcome at the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5K Night Run and Walk was just what she needed.
The 41-year-old three-time Olympic Trials Qualifier won the female title at the eighth-annual event, considered to be the biggest 5K in Arizona and featuring more than 3,000 runners from 13 states, America Samoa and Mexico.
“It was really good for my morale to win today,” said Morrison, who finished 22nd overall in 18 minutes, 16 seconds. “I had been kind of on a downward swing, so it was just great to win.”
Jordan Chipangama, a 25-year-old native of Zambia, was the men’s and overall winner, finishing the 3.1-mile course that started and ended between Armory Park and the Children’s Museum on South Sixth Avenue in 14:25 — 33 seconds ahead of fellow Flagstaff resident Andrew Lemoncello.
Chipangama’s remarkable time broke the old course record by 5 seconds in his first time running in the event.
In fact, he was originally planning on doing the San Diego Half Marathon today.
But he opted out of it just three days ago and decided to join Lemoncello at Meet Me Downtown.
“This was a great honor for me and was just a great event as well,” said Chipangama, who finished 29th in the IAFF World Championships Marathon in August, running for Zambia.
“Provided that I’m healthy, I will definitely come back here next year,” Chipangama added. “Looking at my race schedule, there will be a window for it.”
Former Pima College star Craig Curley, who won Meet Me Downtown in 2013, finished fourth overall in 15:18 on Saturday night, but wasn’t disappointed.
Curley, who placed 76th overall in the Boston Marathon last month, said he is preparing for a 10K in July and will be competing in marathons in the fall.
“I look at this race more like a fun run,” Curley said.
“Of course I want to run fast, but I’ve also got to put my training first, because there’s other races I want to peak for.
“Sometimes I can do a heavy workout, come out fine and race really well, but sometimes my body feels not recovered. Today was just one of those days I was still sore from a hard workout.”
For Morrison, Meet Me Downtown was the third 5K she has run in as many months.
She was fourth among females in the Tucson 5000 on May 11 — her birthday — and was the women’s runner-up in her category at the Carlsbad 5000 in California on March 30.
“I thought I had all my ducks in a row for the Tucson-5, but I didn’t,” said Morrison, who had major hip surgery in 2010 and has been battling with injuries recently.
“I just had a bad day, but it was really good to win today,” she added. “It’s going to make workouts a lot better this summer.
“I’m going to be more motivated.”