Weldon Kirui celebrates his victory at the Kass Marathon in Eldoret yesterday. [PHOTO:PETER
OCHIENG/STANDARD]
By Joseph Ngure

The 2012 edition of Kass International Marathon lived to it’s billing with budding talent emerging to test major victories at home soil for the first time.

In what has established itself as marathon tradition, there were no defending champions on the start list and the race was wide open for untested runners, who had been focusing on the event since the beginning of the year, to thrive.

In the main 42 Kilometres, newfound Weldon Kirui and upcoming Agnes Jepkosgei registered their maiden victories at home amidst stiff oppositions from a stellar cast.

They youthful Kirui, 23, who comes from Kericho in the South Rift blew away the opposition to clinch his local major victory after trying his luck in Los Angeles marathon last month where he finished second with a 2.09 Personal best.

He clocked 2:17.44 on the challenging Kass marathon course, certified by IAAF last year, to become the event’s 6th winner. The Course transverses across the two athletic-rich Counties of Nandi and Uasin Gishu, beginning near Kapsabet town and ending at the Eldoret Municipal Hall.

“I have tried several marathons outside the country without winning. The victory in Kass Marathon has given me morale,” said Kirui, who apart from finishing second in Los Angeles was fourth  in San Diego and eighth in Eindoven.

The runner, coached Edward Muge at Chebirbelek athletics club, took to the hard road with ease, stuck in the middle of the leading group until the 35Km mark.

He broke away but could not maintain the lead as rivals Peter Kosgei, Samuel Rotich and Hillary Kipsang narrowing the gap.

“I wanted to go but they could not drop off. I had to slow before the last 5km,” said Kirui, who walked away with Sh1.5 million for his sweat.

Peter Kosgei, from Kaptarakwa in Keiyo arrived second in 2:18.47 followed by Samuel Rotich 2:1851, Hillary Kipsang 2:19.21 and Benjamin Koech 2:19.31.

For Agnes Jepkosgei, Kass Marathon has opened the gates to major championships after her debut victory at home. Jepkosgei, 25, was doing the 42 kilometres for the first time and she came to the race boasting of a 1:16.00 career best in half marathon secured in Brazil in February last year.

“I am quite happy I have won my first marathon race. I will focus more on training for future competitions,” said the winner who trains under former steeplechaser Amos Korir in Kapsabet.

The new champion, who comes from Hossen, Kipsaiya in Marakwet, but trains in Kapsabet, was overcome with joy after also winning Sh1.5 million and said she would invest for her future.

Jepkosgei 2:41.30 beat untested Purity Kimeto to second clocking 2:46.40 while Sally Kimaiyo and road racer Frida Domongole managed 2:46.49 and 2:47.40 for third and fourth.

Ugandan Jarie Suuto was the only foreign runner to finish among the top 10 when she completed at position five but had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment after suffering an injury. She returned 2:48.4.

In the shorter 12 Kilometres race, African cross country champion Joyce Chepkirui and new discovery Cosmas Lagat merged the winners.

Chepkirui, who is on the Kenyan team to this year’s Chiba Ekiden, blazed the tape in 40:07.2 after outsprinting on-form Philomena Cheiyech in the last 1km.

Cheiyech’s time was 40:23.8. Boston third finisher Georgina Rono finished third in 41:10.5 with Mercy Kibarus and veteran Hella Kiprop occupying the fourth and fifth positions in 41:44.4 and 42:08.5.

In men race, Lagat timed 35:21.3 for the victory. Former world junior 10,000m Champion Paul Lunyangata was second in 35:27.5 ahead of Victor Kipchirchir 35:37.3 and Kiprop Limo 35:38.1.

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Kass Marathon Eldoret