By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The field of elite runners and weekend warriors is shaping up nicely for this year’s 35th Gum Tree 10k, which is scheduled for the morning of May 12.
Defending men’s champion Reuben Mwei, from Kennesaw, Ga., plans to defend his crown in a field that should include about 20 elite men’s and women’s runners.
“The field looks good,” race director Andy Hughes said Saturday. “The next few days is usually when our field of elite runners will fill out. And we should see a lot of interest overall, as the registration fee goes from $18 to $20 on Tuesday.”
Last year’s race had about 800 finishers. The day’s activities also include a 2k fun run.
Two-time women’s champ Raimilia Buranfulova isn’t expected to compete, but her training partner, former Boston Marathon masters champion Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova, finished second last year and will run here. “Firaya said she wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Hughes said.
The top elite female in the field could be Lydia Kosgei, who has win a 33:36 this year. Her finance, Festus Chemaoi, has run in the 30-minute range at the distance this year and could also be a contender.
Mwei won a well-contested race last year in 29:19. Buranfulova won the women’s race in 35:45.
Tupelo native Robert Scribner, who finished third last year, will not be running this time as he pursues a competitive training regimen for his Michigan-based running team.
The Gum Tree field will tackle a course that’s been changed slightly this year, with a start on Main St. and a finish at the front entrance of Fairpark.
“Everybody’s been very positive about the changes, but of course no one had run it yet,” Hughes said. “I don’t think the course is any tougher and the finish line festivities will be a lot better.”
Proceeds from the race benefit Habitat for Humanity.
Signups are available online at tupelorunningclub.net and racesonline.com. Call Andy Hughes at 844-8920 for more information.