NAIROBI, January 2 – Kenya’s Vincent Kipruto and Ethiopia’s Worknesh Edesa claimed victories at the 2016 Xiamen International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Kipruto, the 2011 IAAF World Championships marathon silver medallist came out on top at the first IAAF competition of 2016 after a six-man battle over the last 10 kilometres to cross the line in 2:10:18.
The initial leading group of 13 men passed 10km mark in 30:35. The leaders went on to hit 15km in 45:56, 20km in 1:01:31, 25km in 1:17:11 and 30km in 1:32:30.
In the last 10km, the leading pack was down to Ethiopia’s Feyisa Bekele, Shura Kitata, Abdela Godana, Alemu Gemechu and Gebre Mekuant, as well as Kipruto as the lone Kenyan surrounded by a swathe of rivals from his country’s Rift Valley neighbour.
The 25-year-old Gemechu was first left behind and the leading group waved goodbye to Mekuant after 36 kilometres and then Godana after 38 kilometres.
At the 39km mark, the 32-year-old Bekele started to slow down, leaving the top prize to be disputed by Kitata and Kipruto.
After Kitata and Kipruto took turns at the front, the pair were still check-to-cheek with 200 metres to go but Kipruto’s strong finish gave him the victory after the thrilling finale.
The 19-year-old Kitata, a relatively inexperienced runner who set a personal best of 2:08:53 when finishing third at Shanghai Marathon in November less than two months ago, came home second in 2:10:20.
Bekele, who has a PB of 2:06:26 when finishing fourth at the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon, took third place in 2:11:09.
“I am very impressed and happy about my performance. I haven’t won for a long time and this time I won, so I am very happy,” said Kipruto, whose only marathon finish in 2015 was a lowly 14th at the Paris Marathon in April.
It was his Kipruto’s fourth career win over the classic distance in 15 finishes, following on from his triumphs in Paris in 2009 and then Otsu and Frankfurt in 2013.
He fulfilled his role as the fastest man in the race his personal best of 2:05:13 coming when he finished third in the Rotterdam race in 2010 but Kipruto’s winning time in Xiamen was the slowest in the latest nine editions and almost four minutes away from the course record of 2:06:19 set by his countryman Moses Mosop last year.
In contrast to the relatively sluggish times in the men’s race, the 23-year-old Edesa trimmed more than seven minutes off her best to claim the women’s title in 2:24:04, extending Ethiopia’s winning streak in the women’s race to seven years.
Edesa’s previous best was 2:31:06 set at the Marrakech Marathon last year.
She was part of the leading group from the start of the race, passing 10km in 34:42 and 20km in 1:08:07 before making a solo run from home at around 25 kilometres. After that she never faced any real challenge.
“I am so happy with the performance,” said Edesa, who was looking around slightly nervously in the last few hundreds of metres. “At the beginning I pushed the race a lot, after that it became slower, because the course is a bit up and down and it was a little bit windy, that made the second half slower.”
“When we returned back to the bridge, it was very difficult because of the wind. I liked the view, though,” she said, referring to the 2.2km Yanwu Bridge that stretches over the sea and the runners have to go across twice during the race.
Edesa’s compatriot Marta Lema finished 28 seconds behind Edesa in 2:24:32, beating her PB of 2:25:59 set in last September at at another Chinese race, the Hengshui Marathon.
Fantu Eticha completed an all-Ethiopian women’s podium in the coastal city in Fujian province, coming home a distant third in 2:26:53, 39 seconds outside her best.
More than 27,000 runners competed in the Xiamen Marathon this year with another 21,000 taking part in the associated the 5km mass run.