NKUBU, Kenya, December 8- World Half Marathon bronze medallist, John Mwangangi and newcomer Pauline Njeru soared to the men and women senior 15Km race honours during the sixth Safaricom Imenti South Road Race on Saturday.
Staged in a winding hilly course under ideal running conditions, Mwangangi shadowed home runner and revelation,
Stephen Mungatia before reeling him in for the victory as they came for the stadium finish in 47:26.
Embu based 21-year-old Njeru crowned a dominant display in the corresponding race when she romped home unchallenged in 56:30 to upset established runners in the event that attracted over 500 starters across various races.
“I’m very pleased to win this race. Last year but one, I was second and today I was able to win. Coming here after competing at the World Half where the competition was stiff was to motivate upcoming runners.
“I did not come here for the money but to show young runners that they can one day realise the dream of making it big in the sport,” Mwangangi who pocketed Sh50,000 with his win said having sponsored ten runners from his Machakos home region to participate in the race.
He attributed his victory over the impressive Mungatia to experience adding, “I decided to start slowly since I knew the course was hilly and as the rest tired, I was just getting started and in the end, I was strong at the finish.”
Mwangangi who bagged the Africa Cross Country title in South Africa last year will not compete in any other event until February’s National Cross Championships.
“My target is the World Cross where I’m hoping that I can compete the way I did in South Africa,” the Kenya Prisons Service athlete asserted.
Mungatia clocked 47:44 for the bridesmaid position with Bernard Murigi (48:01), Elijah Mwaki (48:02) and Bernard Waweru 48:16 wrapping the top five.
In the women’s race, Njeru who trains under London Olympics coach, Bruce Laati in Kigali, Embu, was simply untouchable on the day, taking charge of affairs with 3km gone to deliver a crushing victory.
“I was nicknamed (Pamela) Jelimo in high school but now I want to make a name for myself in the sport. It was my first time to compete as a senior and since my father took me to Laati, I know I have a job to do,” the Gichugu born athlete who took up running seriously last year said.
“At the beginning of the race, I was not even sure I could feature in the top ten and that is when I decided to go for it from the start. I remembered what my coach told me when running in a hilly course, ‘high knees’ and I kept on saying it to myself,” the winner who also took home Sh50,000 in prize money expressed as she hopes she will run her way into a job at Kenya Police.
Domestic circuit veteran Philomena Chepchirchir (57:00) led the challengers home a minute and three seconds in arrears to the winner with Perine Oitarunesh (57:33) sealing the podium. Eunice Kioko (57:54) was fourth ahead of the returning 2009 champion, Magdalene Mukunzi (58:16) in fifth.
World marathon record holder, Patrick Makau, who was among the chief invited guests, brought with him five runners from Machakos as well as organising for 20 others to feature in the race.
“I support these local races since this is where I started out as a runner before I became a champion. The talent we witnessed here today will one day become the hope of this nation,” the Frankfurt Marathon winner stressed.
He revealed he was preparing for the 2013 London Marathon before offering himself for selection in Kenya’s team for the Moscow World Championships in the summer.
“I had a problem in London this year and I could not finish. The injury is now gone and due to bad weather, I did compete to the maximum so I believe I have the energy to go back there and perform.
“After that, it is my wish to run for my country since I was not happy to miss the Olympics,” the 2:03:38 ultimate distance standard bearer added.
Athletics Kenya general secretary, David Okeyo, treasurer Joseph Kinyua who is also the race organiser as well as relations officer, Peter Angwenyi represented the federation’s top brass.
Okeyo called on next year’s race to have doping control in place since the event had grown in magnitude.
1. John Mwangangi 47:26
2. Stephen Mungatia 47:44
3. Bernard Murigi 48:01
4. Elijah Mwaniki 48:02
5. Bernard Waweru 48:16
6. Daniel Kinyua 48:19
7. Isaac Kirimi 48:34
8. Mike Rotich 48:43
9. Albert Kangor 49:02
10. Gilbert Kipkosgei 49:23
1. Pauline Njeru 56:30
2. Philomena Chepchirchir 57:00
3. Perine Oitaruesh 57:33
4. Eunice Kioko 57:54
5. Magdalene Mukunzi 58:16
Viola Kimetto 58:21
7. Peninah Kigen 58:38
8. Jane Njeri 59:03
9. Lucy Karimi 59:09
10. Freshiah Nyambura 59:49