NAIROBI, Kenya, January 27- Former Commonwealth champion Lucy Kabuu was denied a dream marathon debut when she fell just three seconds short of bagging the women’s Stanchart Dubai Marathon title and $250,000 (Sh12.4m) on Friday.
However, her 2:19:34 performance is the second fastest time ever ran by a Kenyan female athlete behind former world marathon record holder and twice world champion, Catherine ‘The Great’ Ndereba’s 2:18:47 at the 2001 Chicago Marathon.
“We are very grateful for what happened today and it was a reward of all the effort we have put in training and even though she did not win, it shows she has a bright future in marathon running,” Kabuu’s spouse, Jeremiah Maina, told Capital Sport.
Defending champion, Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia caught up with Kabuu who had briefly held the lead in the closing stages before employing her marathon running pedigree to breast the tape in 2:19:31.
Kabuu, a two-time Olympian nonetheless raced to the second fastest ever female marathon debut behind to world record holder, Britain’s Paula Radcliffe who opened her ultimate distance account with 2:18:56, to earn $100,000 (Sh8.5m) underlining the sublimity of her performance.
Athletics Kenya (AK) chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat, hailed Kabuu’s performance but said it would not alter the London Olympics arithmetic.
“We are aware of the commendable time she has run and congratulations to her in becoming the second fastest Kenyan woman in history on her first marathon.
“But we are not going to change our Olympics marathon team even if anyone breaks a world record but for Kabuu, we are sure she will get better with experience and is one for the future,” Kiplagat said.
World champion, Edna Kiplagat, London winner, Mary Keitany who motored to 2:19:50 at the Olympics city last year, Berlin champion, Florence Kiplagat, Daegu silver winner, Priscah Jeptoo, Sharon Cherop who completed the 1-2-3 and veteran Lydia Cheromei, who featured in the Dubai race are AK’s probables for the London Olympics.
Cheromei who made her national team debut in 1991 aged 13 was a runner-up to Mergia in last year’s edition and ran 2:21:30 for sixth in the event that served the fastest finishes to a marathon.
Kabuu has been in top form ahead of Dubai winning the senior women’s race at the Kenya Police Cross Championships on January 14, New Delhi Half (November 27/67:04/PB), South Shields Half (September 18/67:06) and the Great Bupa Southern Road Race in Edinburgh (October 2/32:28).
She took up road running after almost three seasons out with Achilles heel injury saying her foot could not handle track running. Amid her injury nightmare, the couple welcomed daughter Angel.
In the men’s race, Ethiopia’s first timer and 2009 World Cross junior champion, Ayele Abshero smashed the course record set by compatriot Haile Gebrselassie (2:04:53) when he posted a jaw-dropping 2:04:23 in intense heat to lock countryman Dino Sefir Kemal who took second 25 seconds adrift.
The much vaunted Kenyan challenge fronted by three-time London Marathon champion, Martin Lel and last year’s surprise winner, David Barmasai Tumo failed to click as Ethiopia drew first blood against their bitter rivals who swept the floor with them last year.
Lel and Tumo who were eyeing performances that would have compelled AK to re-look their Olympics selection fell off the contention with 8km to go.
World record holder, Patrick Makau, Boston and New York titleholder, Geoffrey Mutai, London winner, Emmanuel Mutai, Moses Mosop (Chicago champion), two-time World titleholder, Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang (Frankfurt titleholder) are the Olympics hopefuls in the men’s race.
Additional reporting AP and Letsrun.com