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Kebenei and Karie rule Nairobi marathon

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NAIROBI, Kenya, October 30- Once again, Sunday’s Stanchart Nairobi Marathon that celebrated its ninth edition bore firsts as Ernest Kebenei and Margaret Karie Toroitich were coroneted as the men and women 42km winners in contrasting styles.

Kebenei, 27, who won the half marathon race at the 2009 edition of the event made his full marathon debut a moment to remember after edging out a seven-way tussle for the top $15,000 (Sh1.5m) prize over the last two kilometres in 2:10:54.

And competing for the first time on home soil, Toroitch, the 32-year-old mother of two, clinched the most lucrative prize in Kenyan running with a commanding front running display in the second half of the women’s race in a new career best of 2:30:17.

“I was comfortable with the pace. I was relaxed when we crossed the first half in 65:00 and knowing the half marathon course helped me. I had planned to make my move at 35km when I went to the front but I had to push harder in the last two kilometres since they were still with me,” the ninth different male winner of the event said.

His fiancée, Pamela Cheruiyot, a student at Eldoret’s Baraton University, can now look forward to the marital bliss in December since the freshly minted champion intends to spend some of his windfall on their wedding.

“I have not done the planning yet but I want to establish a family. I will also invest since in our current economy, you cannot afford to run loose with money,” the winner added.

Franklin Chepkwony came home in 2:10:59 for silver in a tight finis with Simon Kiprop, finishing third in 2:11:54.

Run under overcast conditions, the men’s elite field was bunched with a group of ten runners still with a shout of victory at the 35km mark when the winner edged in front.

Chepkwony followed the frontrunner with Kiprop, fourth placed Matthew Koech (2:11:54), Francis Kiptoo (2:11:57) and Linus Maiyo (2:11:58) who came home in the following two positions keeping close attention.

As they approached the Nyayo National Stadium finish, Chepkwony injected his first bust of pace but the runner-up failed to break and as they entered the grounds, the winner mustered one final push that saw him through the line victorious and moments later, prone on the tarmac, the exertion proving too much for his legs to hold.

“I used a lot of strength at the finish to hold off the guy who was finishing very strong. I found the second part of the race very tough but now I can look forward to competing at big races such as Stanchart Dubai Marathon,” the Simatwet camp runner, whose coach, Said Aziz brought Olympics women 800m champion, Pamela Jelimo to the fore, noted.

In the women’s race, Toroitich, who has featured in international marathons from Athens to Taipei, ruled the roost when she charged to the front midway for victory on her first competition on home soil.

“I have run many marathons abroad and this time, I decided to run here. Competing in Kenya is difficult since there are too many good runners and I cannot describe the joy at coming out on top,” she said.

“I started the race from behind and when I caught up with the leaders, I decided not to stay with them and that is when I started using the male runners to pace me. If they went faster, I reverted back to my pace,” she added.

The marathoner who brought a lifetime best of 2:30:34 achieved in Belgium in 2004 to the race is now aiming to land invitation to the Big Five races next season and will use her $15,000 top prize to educate her two children, one who is in secondary school.

“If they perform well at the end of the term, I will also buy them a present,” she added.

Such was her storming run for the title that last year’s Taipei Marathon champion, Winfridah Kwamboka was reduced to executing the role of leading challengers to the tape in 2:31:33 as Emily Chepkorir stopped the timer three minutes further back (2:34:21) for the bronze.

Over 15,000 runners took part in the event where Dennis Kipruto (1:01:31) led Joseph Aperumoi (1:02:21) and Matthew Rotich (1:02:37) to the podium in the men’s half marathon for the $1,500 (Sh150, 000) top prize.

Elizabeth Chelagat (1:12:10) took top honours in the corresponding women’s race with Hellen Jepkurgat (1:14:15) and Baroness Chepkurui (1:15:32) in silver and bronze positions.

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