YOUNGSTOWN - Even with a fellow countryman to keep pace, Elijah Muturi focused on himself at the 39th annual Peace Race.
Rather, it was the music inside his head that kept him going.
"I really love music," the citizen of Kenya said. "I feel songs inside my head. Even when i'm running, I'm singing music inside my head.
"The songs gave me the strength."
With a 4:43 mile pace and a 29:13.2 finishing time in the 10K, Muturi, 31, was first overall in his first trip to Youngstown. To celebrate the run, and his love of music, Muturi strummed an imaginary guitar as he crossed the finish line with hundreds of spectators waiting in Federal Plaza.
"There were very good people who kept me strong," said Muturi, who ran a 10-mile race in Virginia last week. "This was like a speed walk for me."
Runners explode from the starting line of the 2013 Peace Race in Youngstown. The race, which began at Kirkmere Elementary School in the Cornersburg Area, took runners through Mill Creek Park and ended on Federal Street in downtown Youngstown.
Boniface Biwott, also of Kenya, ran with Muturi for most of the race before falling behind at round the four-mile mark. Muturi ran that leg in a four minutes, 28 seconds. Julius Kiptoo, a Kenyan native who now resides in Toledo, was also at the head of the pack, but finished fourth. Biwott placed second with a time of 29:43.
Ryan Kienzle of Canton continued a trend with his Peace Race tradition.
"Every time I've come here I've either been third or fourth," said Kienzle, who was third with a 30:31. "It's always been pretty close, but this one was a lot more open."
He couldn't catch up with Muturi and Biwott, but Kiptoo sagged off around the midway point of the race.
"I was pretty patient because I figured one of them would come back and that's what happened," Kienzle said. "He tagged on me for the last mile and I was kind of worried that he'd sit on me for a mile and then try to bring me down. I tried to open it up once we got on the (Mahoning Avenue bridge)."
Muturi earned $700 for the victory, while Kienzle took home $600 as the top American finisher. The Peace Race committee offers more than $10,000 in prize money.
"I'll probably bank it," Kienzle said. "I've been fortunate enough to make some money this year in running. That's just kind of icing on the cake. I come out here and focus more on training, it's nice to pick up extra cash."
Kienzle, a former runner for GlenOak High School and Malone University in Canton, is currently a middle school teacher. He's also the course record holder for the Akron Half Marathon.
On Sept. 28, he won the event by three seconds with a 1:05.38. On Nov. 17, he'll run the Philadelphia Half Marathon in hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Time Trials.
With her time of 1:14.22 in the Akron Half Marathon, Madison-native Jessica Odorcic won the women's division and qualified for the Olympic Time Trials. On Sunday, she was the first woman to cross the finish line of the Peace Race with a time of 33:34. She placed 16th overall.
"It's kind of a tough course, but it's a great course," said Odorcic, who last ran the Peace Race in 2010. "It's rolling up and down. There's a lot of downhill where you can pick up some good speed.
"This was my last competitive road race this year. I honestly was looking to run my 10K PR, which I did, by about 33 seconds."
Odorcic is a graduate of Wright State University, where she ran track and cross country. After a pulled hamstring, which kept her out of last year's Akron Half Marathon, and a back injury from two years ago, the 32-year old goes to great lengths to avoid further setbacks.
"Stretching is so important," Odorcic said. "I have a foam roller, a lot of compression stuff and an endurance table. I hang upside-down everyday for a few minutes just to try and avoid injury. You never know when something is going to pull or pop out of place."
More than 1,100 runners registered for the event and 1,015 recorded a finishing time on Sunday. Trumbull County winners of their respective age groups included John Marenkovic, 16, of Hubbard (39.02), Malina Mitchell, 14, of McDonald (43:58), Carrie Albert, 38, of Cortland (44:40) and Valerie Watson, 45, of Cortland (46:42). Don Gill, 81, of Ashtabula won the Grand Masters male division with a time of 1:02:21.