NARRAGANSETT — Many years ago, running took Bobby Doyle from his Rhode Island home to the University of Texas El Paso. So the late marathon legend probably would have appreciated the journeys of the runners who won the race named in his honor Sunday morning.
Ethiopia natives Birhanu Dare Kemal and Nuhamin Bogale Ashame, both of whom run professionally for New York’s West Side Runners Club, took top honors at the 12th annual Bobby Doyle Summer Classic in Narragansett. Kemal won the overall crown in 24 minutes, 47 seconds, while Ashame claimed the women’s title in 27:01.
A pleasant morning greeted the field of 340, with lower humidity than the last few years, when the opportunity for a fire hose shower awaited at the finish line. The weather didn’t yield any new records – the pace was more than a minute off last year’s course-record time by Josh Izewski – but it made for a good stage for the top runners.
“The course was nice and the weather was nice,” Kemal said. “I never expect weather like this. I liked it.”
Kemal and Ashame were joined by West Side teammates Gezahagn Girma Bekele, who took third overall, and Gishu Dida Maco, who finished fourth. They spend the summer traveling to events around the region.
“We live together, we work together and we run together,” Kemal said.
Kemal is training for marathon season and specifically the New York City Marathon, where he finished 20th last year. Races like Sunday’s five-mile track are crucial.
“This race is important for me for its speed,” Kemal said.
Kemal and the lead pack ran the first mile in roughly 4:50. By the second mile at 9:53, Kemal had taken the lead, and he stayed in front throughout, hitting the third mile at 14:54 and the fourth at 19:48. He would go on to finish 32 seconds ahead of Brian Doyle, who placed second in 25:19.
Doyle, the son of the race’s namesake, added another good race to his summer resume. He won his second consecutive Blessing of the Fleet crown in July.
“I’ve been doing a lot of miles or faster stuff, but not a lot of hard, fast running,” Doyle said. “So I knew I couldn’t go hard for five miles. I figured if I could get to 5K feeling all right, then I would go and that’s what I did. So I was happy with that.”
Bekele finished in 25:24 for third and Maco was fourth in 25:26. Former champ Matt Pelletier took fifth. Ben Drezek of Cumberland, former URI runner Nick Celico, Adam Janik of Providence, Jason Reilly of East Greenwich and Jack McMahon of Warwick rounded out the top 10. McMahon, a former Bishop Hendricken standout, and 11th place finisher Joseph Dos Reis, a La Salle graduate, are both heading to Davidson College, where Brian Doyle is an assistant coach.
“Always good to bring Rhode Island guys down to North Carolina,” Doyle said. “They’ll appreciate it in January and February. They’re good guys. They run fast now and hopefully we’ll keep it going.”
Ashame finished 13th overall and was the top female by more than a minute. Her time ranks second on the female course record list, behind Laura Nagel’s 2015 finish of 26:40.
“I was feeling good and I was ready for this race,” Ashame said. “I liked the course and I liked the weather. Everything was good.”
Margaret Njuguna, a native of Kenya who runs out of Boston, finished second among women in 28:15. Margaret Connolly of Providence, past champion Heather Capello of Brighton, Massachusetts, and Jessica Broderick of Boulder, Colorado, finished out the top five.
Male age group winners were Kemal (1-39); Pelletier (40-49); David Principe (50-59); Ray Danforth (60-69); and Owlison Edoro (70-99). Women’s winners were Ashame (1-39); Jenn Borin (40-49); Njuguna (50-59); Jacqueline Shakar (60-69); and Rose Buckingham (70-99).
Carl Wooten of Narragansett won the 5K walk portion of the event in 41:09.
As always, the race doubled as a reunion, both for Bobby’s contemporaries and the friends of his children. Former teammates Hollie Walton and Rick McLaughlin are always on hand, with McLaughlin firing the gun to start the race. Doyle’s four children, Brendan, Brian, Connor and Mackenzie Doyle all competed in the race, along with many of their high school teammates.
“My friends have all gotten kind of slow and fat now, and I’m kind of joining them,” Brian Doyle said with a laugh. “My brother’s friends are all here and now Macenzie’s friends are here. It’s the kind of race where people say, ‘Oh, I’m not as fast as I was three years ago so I can’t come out and embarrass myself,’ but then you come out here and see this, people hanging out and having a good time – that’s all I care about.”