DAEGU, South Korea, August 27- The iconic Gukchae-bosang Memorial Park finish area in Daegu witnessed history as Edna Kiplagat led compatriots Priscah Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop to complete the first ever podium marathon medal sweep at the World Championships on Saturday.
In a great show of teamwork and individual ability, Kiplagat delivered the top medal in 2:28:43 as Jeptoo (2:29:00) and Cherop (2:29:14) came home for silver and bronze to give their nation the best possible start to the 13th edition.
“I’m happy to win this title in only my fourth marathon. According to my training, I try to run the second half of my races faster, I knew the weather would be a bit warm but I was ready,” Kiplagat said.
She dedicated her victory to her two children, Carlos Kipkorir, 8 and Wendy Chemutai, 4 as well as husband Gilbert Koech who willed her to victory at the looped course in the race ran under punishing 81 percent humidity and warm conditions that made the start resemble a race walking event.
“My family will be very happy with this and I thank them for giving me all the support and motivation to train and run and this is a moment we shall share,” the freshly minted gold medallist and only the second Kenyan female runner after two-time winner Catherine Ndereba to win at the Worlds exuded.
Coming to the race as New York Marathon champion and London Marathon third finisher, the favourite crown was firmly planted on her head and it was up to Kiplagat to take up the task of fulfilling the role.
However, the harsh conditions compelled the runners to keep their ambitions in check as the race opened to a pace that saw a forecast finish of 2:40.
At the 15km mark, the Ethiopians led by Atsede Baysa who went through in the lead with 54:30 picked up the speed.
The runners went through 20km in 1:20:29 with 30 in the leading park but the race really started ten kilometres later when Kiplagat, who had enough of the shadow boxing motioned Cherop and Jeptoo to move to the lead with Ethiopia’s Bezunesh Bekele going with them.
At this point, Commonwealth champion, Irene Jerotich and Caroline Rotich, the other Team Kenya runners had ceded the medal fight as the conditions claimed them.
The leaders cranked up the gear and went through 30K in 2:05:19 with the 5K split from 25Km to that point raced at 16:44, the fastest in the race.
With three medals and four runners contesting for them, the next five kilometres were the most intriguing part of the race as Bezunesh resolutely held on to the Kenyans who switched the lead.
However, the second burst of pace from Kiplagat proved to be the decider as Bezunesh fell, leaving the Kenyan trio to run for history.
But at the last water point, disaster almost struck as Cherop cut into Kiplagat, sending the leader tumbling to the road. Jeptoo helped the New York champion up and later, the trio revealed they decided to slow the pace for a kilometre to allow the fallen athlete to recover.
Once the batteries were recharged, Kiplagat made her final breakaway for glory as Jeptoo and Sherop, who had to fend off a fast finishing Bezunesh, entered into record books.
“The race today was difficult since it was my first time to run in such humidity and also for the national team. I knew the second part would be faster especially when Kiplagat pushed the pace at 30K and decided to follow her since we were ready to fight for our country and we are very happy for 1-2-3,” Jeptoo said.
The bronze medallist offered, “The first kilometres were slow and I did not want to run fast since it was my first time to run in humidity but I’m grateful especially I had to push so hard towards the finish to stop the Ethiopian from getting past me and save my team.”
With victory, Kiplagat moved up to 60 points in the elite World Marathon Majors race, five points behind leader, Liliya Shobukhova of Russia who skipped Daegu.
“It was another fabulous performance by Edna and it confirms the New York Marathon and World Championships are championship style courses and the way she thought on the course was remarkable and it’s a good day for Kenya for completing the 123,” Richard Finn, an organiser of the New York Marathon said.
“It makes the women’s WMM interesting because Shobukhova must win in Chicago because if she does not, it will open up the chance for Edna to take it if she runs in New York and defends her title,” he added.
Another milestone for the country saw the women’s team win the women’s marathon World Cup for the first ever time as Ethiopia and China took silver and bronze.
– Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting for Capital FM from Daegu, South Korea.