Not long after sunrise, Javier Ceja began moving. He jogged the half-mile from his home to the starting line at the River Run as a warm-up and then back again to change for the coming race.
Saturday would be an anniversary for Ceja — a day to remember how far he’d come in the last year.
“One year ago, the River Run was my first race after I’d injured my ankle,” Ceja said. “So I was thinking a lot about that and a lot about what I had to do to come back. The time when I was out was hard for me, just a lot of sitting on the couch and watching movies.”
Ceja’s anniversary turned into a great one, and a similar triumph to last year as the 26-year-old repeated as the River Run’s 10-kilometer champion with a time of 31 minutes, 12 seconds, two seconds behind his 2013 winning time.
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The former Friends All-American outraced second-place Scott Downard, 31, who finished in 32:17, and Oklahoma Christian’s Bryant Keirns, 20, a Derby native who finished at 32:53.
“Going into it, I felt a little pressure because it wasn’t just marking just one year after the injury, but one year on the Wichita road scene for me,” Ceja said. “It’s such a great race, such a great setup.”
There were 1,800 participants in Saturday’s River Run, which started at Main and Waterman and headed up Waco and around the back side of Riverside Park, back to a finish line that spilled into an array of things for the runners to do — just feet from the finish line there were free bratwurst being handed out, free coffee, breakfast and donuts for the runners, and a runner’s village replete with a DJ on the main stage.
Ceja and women’s champion Amanda Goetschius were both honored in a ceremony about an hour after they crossed the finish line, with Ceja surrounded by well-wishers after receiving his winner’s check and medal.
“It’s a very enjoyable race for me,” Ceja said. “Not only is it close to home, but I run Wichita every day so I know this area.”