MERU, Kenya, December 10- Armed Forces runner, Simon Gichuki and Monica Watetu from Embu beat the intense heat and punishing hilly course to soar to this year’s Safaricom Imenti South Road Race titles on Saturday.
Gichuki continued his rapid rise on the domestic scene when he tore away from the opposition 2km from the tape to romp home victorious in 47:03 in the men’s 15K while Watetu completed an emphatic gun-to-tape triumph in the corresponding women’s 10K main race.
The men’s winner, 25, came to Imenti South on the back of fifth and fourth finishes at the Embu and Nyahururu legs of the KCB/AK National Cross Country Series meetings and his class prevailed when he timed his tactics to perfection to carry the Sh50,000 top prize.
“It was very difficult out there with the hills but for me, it was good experience as I prepare to vie for a position in the national Africa Cross Country team next year,” Gichuki, a soldier at Laikipia Airbase said after he won the event on his first attempt on the road.
It only took the first steep incline for the pretenders to be dislodged from the main contenders with a lead pack of six forming from mid-race. Gichuki kept himself ensconced with the front runners before he disengaged himself 2km from the finish to enter the Nkubu Stadium for a solo lap of honour.
Kaniu Wanjiku (48:20) arrived a minute later to lead the challengers home with John Kariuki (48:26) occupying the last podium place two seconds ahead of fourth finisher Joshua Maingi while Joshua Maingi settled for fifth in 48:30.
“Running in the cross country circuit helped me to get the speed and training at Kabiruini Forest in Nyeri enabled me to cope with the course. I plan to take a break in January so that I can work on the weaknesses I have in readiness for the nationals,” Gichuki added.
Last year’s Stanchart Hong Kong Marathon winner and course record holder, Cyprian Kiogora was the first home runner across the line in 11th.
“For the past one year, I have been troubled by injuries but now, my body is feeling great. This is one of my build-up events to the Hong Kong Marathon in February where I’m aiming to set a new course record of under 2:12.
“I’m encouraged my more runners from this region coming to compete. We have Lucy Karimi who finished second at Ndakaini Half and fourth at the MTN Uganda Marathon as an example,” the foremost athlete from South Imenti said.
In the women’s 10K showstopper, Watetu deployed a polished front running display such that she arrived home triumphant in among the men’s race top ten finishers.
“I train at Kigari, Embu where we have similar hills where we do 20km runs often so coming here for 10km made me confident and I was not afraid to run from the front. The only thing that was difficult to handle was the heat,” she said after completing the course in 37:25 for victory and Sh50,000 top prize.
Watetu, 24, who finished sixth in Nyahururu last weekend after dropping out of the Masai Mara Marathon after being taken ill, is keen on placing her region on the athletics’ map.
“I want to make the national team next year so that I can inspire many other girls from Embu to take up running,” the ex-Kangondo Girls’ High School Student said adding, “This is my talent and it is what I love doing.”
Hard chasing Nyahururu runner, Wanjiku Gatheru ate up the ground to breast the tape in 37:52 for silver with Jane Kangara from the same region clocking 38:01 for third.
Karimi was the first home athlete to breast the tape in 49:11 for tenth at a meet that attracted 460 runners in various events that included 8km and 6km men and women races, veteran contest, children race and fun run.
World record holder, Daniel Komen and 2005 Worlds 5,000m champion, Benjamin Limo were in attendance bringing with them some ten athletes.
“We wanted to bring in more runners but there has been many events in the past month and most of the athletes are tired,” Limo said.
1. Simon Gichuki 47:03
2. Kaniu Wanjiku 48:20
3. John Kariuki 48:26
4. Joshua Maingi 48:28
5. John Kyalo 48:30
6. Bernard Muriiithi 48:32
7. Joseph Kariuki 48:38
8. Willy Mwangi 48:48
9. Polycap Mogusu 48:58
10. Daniel Muiva 49:11
1.Monicah Nderitu 37:25
2.Wanjiru Gatheru 37:52
3.Jane Kangara 38:01
4.Tabitha Gichia 38:15
5.Margaret Wamaiga 38:24
6.Naomi Chepng’etich 38:33
7.Hellen Musyoki 38:39
8.Josephine Kimuyu 38:47
9.Pauline Mutwa 38:58
10.Lucy Karimi 39:11