NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 – Geoffrey Kirui ran a race of his life to clinch the men’s marathon title in 2:08:27 to hand Kenya her first gold medal at the London IAAF World Championships on Sunday.
Kirui, the reigning Boston Marathon champion pulled away from his closest challenger Ethiopian Tamirat Tola who came second in 2:09:49 while Tanzanian Alphonce Felix Simbu grabbed bronze in 2:09:51 to win first ever medal for the Tanzanian nation.
Other Kenyans in the race Gideon Kipketer finished fifth in 2:09:56 as London Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru crossed the line eighth in 2:12:16.
Kirui’s win not only ensured Kenya reclaim the world title for the first time since the Daegu edition in 2011 where two-time champion Abel Kirui won it but also extend Kenya’s record as the most successful nation in the history of this event with a total of five gold medals.
“This is the best moment of my career, easily. I am so happy to win the world title because it is my first time at these championships. This was the best course and the best crowd I have seen at a marathon, Kirui said.
“I was not expecting to be world champion. I feared the Ethiopian because he had such a fast time, so I just followed my plan to 35km and then felt my body to see how I was doing. Good for me it responded well.”
Kirui added: “Winning this title has been my goal for so long. Now my goal will be to repeat it.”
At the 30 km mark, Tola, the Olympic bronze medallist at 10,000m, opened a distance of 20 metres over Kirui and was looking strong to go for gold.
However, the endurance limits of the athletes were tested as leader Tola couldn’t quite grab on to a water bottle from a drinks stop till his third attempt.
“I was smart not to follow the Ethiopian,” Kirui said of Tola’s initial surge, with his rival blaming an old leg injury for eventually falling off the Kenyan’s new pace.
“When he tried to take off I knew I had to hit my target at 35km then I started to move.”
Kirui, 24, found it in himself to not throw in the towel yet and tried to catch up with the Ethiopian, rallying back into the lead and managed to pull away from Tola to go all the way solo and claim his first ever world title on his debut at the global event in a seasonal best.