New stars born at Eldoret City Marathon
ATHLETICS By Stephen Rutto and Jonathan Komen | June 7th 2021
It was the biggest race staged after the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
And it did not disappoint as the winners posted impressive times.
The third edition of Eldoret City Marathon was not like any other. Upstarts upset the rule book and ran away with Sh3.5 million top prize –the highest payout for a marathon race in Africa.
North and South Rift regions, often billed as the spiritual home of athletics that accounts for 60 per cent of world beating stars, lived up to its hot billing.
Pretenders to the throne and defending champions fell by wayside under the unforgiving weather conditions in the precincts of the farming town.
Newcomers pulled a fast one on the established class in what sent adrenaline levels pulse racing.
Victor Kipchirchir, who boasts a personal best of 2:07.38 set at the 2016 Valencia Marathon, held on with the leading pack in the excitingly punishing Eldoret course – a route marked with at least 60 turns.
The race was initially scheduled for April for April 11, but was postponed after sporting events were suspended in the bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 virus.
For the last three editions, no champion in men’s and women’s races has retained the title and a similar script emerged yesterday.
Valery Aiyabei, the 2019 women’s marathon champion, made a daring charge on her crown but she could not hold on to the tape even after opening a 200-metre gap. She ran out of gas in the last six kilometres.
Kipchirchir, the new Eldoret City Marathon winner, wowed fans that lined up on the course as he produced a swift 1:03:20 at the 21km mark.
He led a pack of 14 athletes that comprised Leonard Langat, Emmanuel Bor and Bernard Kipkemoi.
The three exchanged the lead until 33km point when Kipchirchir stepped up the pace before producing a killer sprint at the 39km mark to win in an impressive 2:08:56, a fastest time for the high altitude race.
Langat (2:10:49) and Kipkemei sealed the podium place in 2:11:10.
“It was my first time to compete at the Eldoret City Marathon. From the start, I knew I was going to win,” Kipchirchir said.
Kipchirchir said he was in good form before the race was suspended on March 31, but kept training hard.
The postponement of the race did n0t affect my training because I am a full time athlete – I have no other job. The postponement gave me more time to train,” Kipchirchir said.
“I am confident that this win will open doors for more racing opportunities. I wish to return again next year.
“I am happy for winning the Sh3.5 million. I will plan with my family how to spend the cash,” he said.
The women’s 42km race was also full of surprises.
From Kapchebit village in Marakwet West, and on her marathon debut, Mercy Kipchumba outclassed big shots to win the women’s race.
Kipchirchir and Kipchumba shattered the course records set by Mathew Kisorio and Valary Aiyabei last year.
Kipchumba, who trains in Kapsait training camp alongside world record holder Brigid Kosgei, won in 2:28:10.
She crossed the 21km mark in a remarkable 1:11:09 behind Aiyabei – the 2019 champion, who would later run out of gas.
Aiyabei who came in third at the Battle of the Teams in Czech Republic on Sunday May 30, came a distant 22nd. She crossed the 21km mark in 1:09:57.
Kipchumba went for the title in the last kilometer, outsprinting Judith Korir, also from Elgeyo Marakwet who came in second in 2:28:31.
Jackline Chelal and Martha Njoroge from Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties ran 2:29:47 and 2:30:36 respectively to take the third and fourth places respectively.
“I didn’t expect to win because it was my debut in the marathon. I was running my race and I am glad that I ended up winning the title,’ Kipchumba said.
She added: My focus was not on the prize money. I only wanted to be in the top 20.
Kipchumba said she pulled away in the final stretch after Judith Korir slowed down.
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