Shadrack Kosgei smiled the first time he saw snow.
Barely awake, he lifted his head from his pillow and watched as flakes fell near a light just outside his bedroom window in West Chester, Pa.
``Like little white flowers falling to the ground,'' Kosgei said. ``So many of them. Just like snow I had always seen on television, but real. I liked it.''
That was Wednesday morning. By Thursday, Kosgei's enthusiasm had waned.
After finishing second in the 66th Manchester Road Race, Kosgei sat in a heated room and repeatedly clenched his fists, assuming he eventually would regain feeling. He stared out the window at a mound of snow.
``Much too cold,'' Kosgei said. ``I've never felt anything like that in my life.''
Kosgei, 19, grew up running in Kenya, a country divided by the equator, not cold fronts. When he visits the United States to race, he trains in West Chester.
Thursday morning's temperatures in the teens made for one of the coldest Thanksgiving days in race history.
``If not for the weather, I could have won this race,'' Kosgei said. ``I've run in cold weather, but not like this.''
Still, most runners were more prepared than Kosgei, who finished in 22:05, two seconds behind Andrew Letherby.
``I was cold, but I really didn't notice how cold until I finished,'' said Amy Rudolph, who won the women's race for a record fifth time. ``My feet were a little numb. They're still a little numb. ... It's November in New England. You have to expect this.''
But weather was not a problem early. In fact, even Kosgei said he was hot during the first half of the race. He threw his gloves to the ground while climbing the Highland Street hill about 2 miles in. Big mistake.
``I wish I never threw them away,'' said Kosgei, who was leading at that point. ``The snow was falling off the trees and hitting me in the face. It was really hard for me. Very hard. During the race, I was trying to warm my hands.''
There was little or no wind on Main Street at the start and the sun was melting ice on the sidewalk. But as the course turns onto Porter Street for a long downhill portion, everything changes, as Kosgei found out. The wind whips and trees shade the course. It didn't slow Letherby, who grew up in Australia and resides in Colorado.
``It was cold, but nothing I'm not used to,'' Letherby said. ``The wind was cold, but it didn't really affect me. [Kosgei] seemed uncomfortable. I knew the weather might be tough on him. The more you run in this weather, train in it, the more comfortable you're going to be.''
Thursday was not typical, but reactions were mixed.
``I remember a year which was much more bitter than this,'' said Amby Burfoot, executive editor of Runners World magazine and a nine-time Manchester winner. ``It was windy. Today was perfectly comfortable. If I was running it seriously, I would have stripped down to 70-degree weather running gear. I wanted to keep a little bit warmer than that. Everybody I talked to afterward said they were overdressed.''
``Normally when I run, I don't want to see any sunshine,'' said Bill Tribou, 81, of Granby, who ran his 29th Manchester Road Race. ``Today, I couldn't get enough of it. It disappeared after a while, though.''
So did Kosgei's chances on the back of the course. But he will be back.
``Definitely,'' he said. ``I have experience now. I learned.''Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun