The trio broke away from two Kenyans in the third mile Monday and entered Folsom Field hand-in-hand. Expecting a sprint to the finish, the crowd of 50,000 roared ever louder when it became apparent the Ethiopians instead would cross the tape together.
Desisa finished in 29 minutes, 16.93 seconds, officially 0.03 seconds ahead of 2009 champion Regassa and 0.15 seconds in front of Tola.
“We decided if no Kenya and if we are three, we finish together,” Desisa said.
As race officials attempted to separate them just past the finish line into first, second and third place, the three runners adamantly refused to be sorted into any order.
“We didn’t even try to race each other,” said Regassa, the 2009 champion. “We tried to go together.”
Desisa earned $3,750 for finishing first, Regassa $2,750 for securing second and Tola $2,250 for taking third.
Unable to officially share the win, they vowed to share the winnings.
“We decided to equally divide the money,” Regassa said. “That’s the plan.”
One of them will come up a penny shy of the others’ $2,916.67.
They’ll also get a $15,000 check to share for winning the International Team Challenge.
“We were very happy,” Regassa said. “This is the first time we have done it this way. Usually one of us just runs and follows the second one. This time, from the beginning we decided to go together.”
After crossing the finish line, the Ethiopians gathered for a group hug with two-time champion Mamitu Daska and Amane Gobena, who had given Ethiopia a 1-2 finish in the women’s race minutes earlier.
Daska pulled away from the field at the midway point and never looked back. Gobena was nearly 43 seconds behind in second place and Emily Chebet of Kenya took third, more than a minute behind Daska.
There were about 53,000 registered runners for the citizen’s race that preceded the elite runners around the course, which was run in relatively mild weather.
A 13-year-old boy collapsed at the finish line and went into cardiac arrest, which was likely caused by a rhythm abnormality, said Todd Dorfman, the race’s medical director. Medics got the boy’s heart beating after two minutes and he was transferred to Boulder Community Hospital, where he was stabilized.
The boy, whose name and hometown weren’t released because of federal law, was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Aurora in serious but stable condition so he could be monitored by a pediatric cardiologist, Dorfman said.