NAIROBI, Kenya- Kenyan runners underlined their prowess while breaking course records on the streets of Istanbul and Beirut over the weekend to end a tough week for the country’s sport on a high.
Ruth Chepng’etich shattered the Turkish all-comers record at the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, completing the course in the IAAF Gold Label race in 2:22:36 despite facing a 23km/h headwind between the 10 and 26 Kilometre marks.
Also on Sunday, Organisers of the Blom Bank Beirut Marathon were rewarded with two event records as the best field ever assembled for this IAAF Silver Label race met all expactations.
Dominic Ruto took 23 seconds off the race record to win the men’s race in 2:10:41 despite running under extremely warm conditions while former Kenyan, Eunice Chumba of Bahrain ran 2:28:38 to improve the women’s record by more than half a minute.
Chepng’etich and Ruto crafted the perfect headlines for Kenya on a sad week when the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya announced a four-year ban for women Olympic champion, Jemimah Sumgong for banned blood-booster, EPO use.
Seven months after her surprise 1:06:19 course record victory at the Vodafone Istanbul Half Marathon, Chepngetich sliced nearly five minutes off the long-standing race record of 2:27:27, set by Ethiopia’s Ashu Kasim Roba in 2010.
The 23-year old, who ran shoulder to shoulder with her compatriot Visiline Jepkesho for 40 kilometres, crossed the finish line four seconds ahead the pre-race favourite.
Having to battle strong winds after 10K, Chepngetich, Jepkesho and Ethiopian Letebrhan Haylay proved to be the strongest athletes and had built up a 300-metre lead over their rivals by 15K, which they reached in 52:09.
The trio passed half way in 1:11:53, suggesting a course record was highly likely, and were still together up to the 27th kilometre until Haylay started to lose ground. It then became a race between the two Kenyans and, surprisingly, it was the inexperienced Chepngetich who coped better with the difficult uphill section towards the finish line.
Chepngetich won in 2:22:36, the third-fastest debut ever by a Kenyan woman, while Olympian Jepkesho finished second in 2:22:40, the second-fastest time of her career after the 2:21:37 PB she set in Paris earlier this year.
Chepngetich pocketed USD90,000 for her effort while Jepkesho took home a prize purse of USD65,000 with Letebrhan taking bronze in 2:25:14, just 13 seconds shy of her career best.
In the corresponding men’s race, naturalised Kenya, Abraham Kiprotich (2:11:22) out-lasted Jacob Kendagor (2:11:27) after the pair broke off from the competition to vie for the crown over the last two kilometres.
Ethiopia’s Bazu Worku took third place in 2:11:39.
In Beirut, it was already18C when the starter’s pistol fired at 6:30am and there was no cloud cover whatsoever. By the finish at Martyrs’ Square it was 23C. With the country in political limbo, the celebration was a tonic to the masses.
Ruto overcame his favoured compatriot and defending champion Edwin Kiptoo to capture first place and the USD10,000 prize money. He out-sprinted Ethiopia’s Adane Amsalu on the finishing straight to beat the Ethiopian by four seconds, while Kiptoo could manage only third in 2:11:56.
“When I was at 38 kilometres, I realised my body was good and I realised that I could catch them because there were three in the front.
“My body was okay and so I managed to push and to catch them at 40 kilometres,” the winner told the IAAF.
Former Kenyan, Chumba prevailed as expected in the women’s race, pulling away from defending champion Tigist Girma of Ethiopia in the final 10 kilometres.
Her winning time of 2:28:38 capped a brilliant season for the 24-year-old who ran 2:24:27 for second in Rotterdam before establishing an Asian half marathon record of 1:06:11 in Copenhagen.
-Report compiled from the IAAF. Read more athletics news here