All components for a good race were set for Javier Ceja before the 7 a.m. start to the Kansas Health Foundation River Run Saturday.
Mid-60s temperature, sun shining with a slight breeze, and an energetic atmosphere. All helped him win his first River Run 10-kilometer race in 31 minutes, 10 seconds.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Ceja said. “It’s just a fun atmosphere, people just wake up and run. It’s a nice day, too. Lately it’s been pretty horrible, so it’s a pretty good start to this Saturday.”
Ceja recently finished his eligibility at Friends University, which kept him from running in the race in previous years. But having attended the River Festival last year, Ceja knew he wanted to participate in the race this year.
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“I actually live about a kilometer away from here,” Ceja said. “It’s one of the biggest events in Wichita, so I might as well get ready for that.”
The new course design established last year was a favorite of Ceja’s. Since he lives so close to the route, he is familiar with the area, lending to his 5:01-mile pace.
“Probably every other day I run part of the course,” Ceja said. “I kind of knew where I was at during the race, I knew where the finish line was at, and how many miles were left, or meters. I kind of had a feel for that coming in.”
Making a smooth transformation from track running to road running was another positive outcome of the River Run for Ceja, who was running on a post-collegiate Kansas City, Mo., team.
“I’m always doing a bunch of road runs, and I pretty much train in the streets, so it’s actually nice to not call it a roader anymore and just call it an actual race, a road race,” Ceja said.
But leading up to Saturday, Ceja wasn’t sure that he’d compete at a high level. Friday marked nine weeks of running after an ankle injury that kept out for nearly two months.
Ceja was running late at night and rolled his ankle earlier this year. After sitting out for four weeks, Ceja went running late again and reinjured the same ankle by rolling it again, sitting him out for four more weeks.
“ So it was kind of more of a benchmark to see where I’m at after nine weeks,” Ceja said. “I would say it’s not too bad, not great, but it’s not too bad, either.”
Nathan Wadsworth finished second, and Ceja’s Kansas City Smoke teammate Geovanni Popaca finished third.