By John Theall Sports Writer

AND AWAY THEY GO — The last group of runners heads up the first hill during the 15-kilometer race of the 2010 Boilermaker on Sunday. (Sentinel photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)

CLOSE AT THE FINISH — The 15-kilometer men’s open race in Sunday’s Boilermaker Road Race came down to a neck-and-neck finish as Lelisa Desisa from Ethiopia, left, outlasted Peter Kirui of Kenya in the closing strides. Desisa set a course record with a time of 42 minute, 46 seconds as he led a record-breaking field of over 13,100 participants. (Sentinel photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)

HAPPY FINISHERS — Suzanne Korsmeier and Walz Marti, both of New Hartford, celebrate after inishing their runs in the Boilermaker on Sunday. See page 12 for area 15K finishers. (Sentinel photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)

RECORD-SETTER — The 15-kilometer women’s open winner Edna Kiplagat of Kenya crosses the finish line on Sunday. She had a time of 47 minutes, 57 seconds to shatter the previous women’s record set in 2001 by fellow Kenyan Catherine Ndereba. (Sentinel photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)

STARTING IT OFF — Runners sprint from the starting line during the 15-kilometer Boilermaker Road Race in Utica on Sunday morning. (Sentinel photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)

JOURNEY COMPLETE — Fred Grabo of the Roman Runners crosses the finish line in Sunday’s Boilermaker. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

CRUISING ALONG — Krige Schabor, a South Africa native, crosses the finish line to win the men’s wheelchair event for the fourth consecutive year and fifth overall on Sunday with a time of 32 minutes, 59 seconds. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

PROUD FATHER — Rome’s Rachael Gratch gets a kiss from her father, David Gratch, at the finish of the 5-kilometer Boilermaker race on Sunday. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

UTICA — Ethiopia runner Lelisa Desisa thought he had outlasted the largest Utica Boilermaker field ever, edging Kenya’s Peter Kirui.

But he started his celebration early, and it almost cost him the race.

With at least 200 meters left to go, Desisa let up, thinking he had captured the 15-kilometer event in the 33rd annual Boilermaker. But when he realized he still had some distance to cover to the finish line, he picked up the pace again and pulled away to win by about five feet.

His time of 42 minutes, 46 seconds was a Boilermaker record.

"It feels really good to win the race. I am very, very happy," Desisa said after he not only won in his first Boilermaker race, but also his first ever 15K event.

"I really like running in America, and I like America," he added.

The 20-year-old shattered the previous Boilermaker record of 42:54 set in 1997 by Joseph Kimani.

It was one of two record-setting 15K performances on the day. Women’s champion Edna Kiplagat, 30, of Kenya, also set a course record with a time of 47:57 as Utica’s Greatest Road Race drew a record field of over 13,100 participants.

Kiplagat bested Catherine Ndereba’s previous best mark set in 2001 by nine seconds.

It was a day of firsts all around for an event that took off under optimum weather conditions — 65 degrees and mostly sunny throughout the race.

In the wheelchair race, Krige Schabor won his fourth straight Boilermaker event and fifth victory overall. The native South African finished with a time of 32:59. Anjali Forber-Pratt from Champaign, IL was the top female wheelchair finisher with a 49:23 time.

Mohammed Trafeh was the top American runner to finish the race in the men’s open race with a 44:58 time and finished 10th overall, while Laurel Burdick was the top American female runner to finish the race with a 52:36 time.

Ridouane Harroufi, who was the defending overall Boilermaker champion, finished in fourth place with a 43:17 timed finish which was 39 seconds faster than he won the 2009 Utica race a year before with.

Shadrach Kosgei took third place in the Men’s Open after a late surge on the eight mile mark and closed with a strong 42:50 time. Kirui finished only two seconds behind Desisa with a 42:48 finish after Desisa’s late break towards the finish line to claim the win.

Desisa, who took third at Atlanta’s Peachtree road race a week before, had another epic battle with Kirui, who took second overall at Peachtree, as the two runners traded places for the lead position throughout the entire race. Desisa burst out to a commanding lead at the start of the race and exchanged the lead spot with Kirui a number of times on the course.

Desisa, who ran each mile at a pace of 4:36, led going into Valley View Golf Course at the four-mile marker. He drafted behind Kirui for the next mile before he took over the top spot for the final time at the start of the nine mile marker coming downhill and making the tour onto Whitesboro Street. By the time the two runners, along with a short trailing Kosgei, paced their way down the final stretch onto Court Street, it was anyone’s race to win until Desisa found another gear to clinch the victory.

Desisa said he knew that he could hold off and beat Kirui because of the favorable course conditions for the Ethiopian runner. "The course conditions were very good. I like the mountains and the hills," he said. "The heat was very good, but I took some water. I knew that I could win the race," he added.

The women’s open defending champion, Alice Timbilili from Kenya, took second behind a commanding performance from Kiplagat with a 48:15 timed finished and Belainesh Zemedkum finished with a 49:09 time to take third place.

Kiplagat and Timbilili had some pavement clashes of their own during the Peachtree race, and Kiplagat used that to her advantage of knowing the runners strengths and weaknesses against her.

"I knew that she (Tambilili) was a tough runner because she finished second and I finished in third at Peachtree, so when were running side by side and I knew she didn’t have her best stuff today I tried to really push past her and came away with the win," said Kiplagat, who also ran in the Boilermaker in 2003. "I got this done as soon as I started the race. I pushed as fast as I could and I knew by the second mile that if I could run as fast as I could, I might win the race," she added.

Both the men’s and women’s winners received $6,000, while second cashed in for $3,500, and third took $2,000.

The wheelchair winner took for both the men’s and women’s finishers took $2,500 while the master’s open winner, Mbarak Hussein, 45, was the top finisher in the division and won $800 for the victory.

A record 11,524 people finished the 15K event, while 2,658 finished the 5K race.

There were 18 wheelchair participants that finished this year, while Herman Garic, 20 from Utica, was the top local finisher in the event.