TUPELO • Gladys Cheboi didn’t know she was running in Saturday’s 42nd Gum Tree 10k until last week.
Cheboi, a 29-year-old Kenyan distance runner who trains in Birmingham, won the Gum Tree’s female open championship in her first attempt with a 36:21 clocking in a light drizzle.
“I didn’t know anything about it. My coach told me about it last week,” she said. “This was nice.”
Cheboi, who trains for marathons and half marathons, won the 2018 Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Half Marathon in October.
In the Gum Tree, she essentially was racing against herself.
“There was no (female) competition around me,” she said. “My strategy was to keep my pace constant.”
Meggan Franks of Starkville finished second in 39:41.
Jay Poindexter of Michie, Tennessee, won the self-propelled wheelchair championship for the second-straight year, winning in 39:16. His title time in 2018 was 39:34.
He said the 6.2-mile course’s rain-slick streets made for a difficult race.
“The rain made things a little slower for me,” he said. “It was slick out there. The sharp turns (through the neighborhoods) and hills are always the biggest problems.”
WALK NOT RUN
Tom Kennedy, who ran his 40th consecutive Gum Tree in 2018, didn’t participate in the 10k this year. Instead, because of troubles with sciatica, he walked in the 2k Fun Run.
“I haven’t been able to train,” the Columbus native said, moments after finishing. “It was tough. I was struggling today. I’m glad my 40th was last year. I’d never been able to make it (the 10k) this year.”
Kennedy, 84, said he hopes to resume running soon and compete in next year’s 10k.