LONDON, England, September 16 – Olympics marathon bronze medallist and London winner Wilson Kipsang defeated compatriot Micah Kogo in a sprint finish to win the Great North Run half marathon in north-east England on Sunday.
In the women’s race, Tirunesh Dibaba continued to haunt Kenyan athletes when she beat the world marathon champion, Edna Kiplagat to the tape in 1:07:35 against 1:07:41 on her debut over the distance as Olympics marathon titleholder, Tiki Gelana also of Ethiopia, finished third with the timer stopping at 1:07:48.
Kipsang took the men’s elite event in 59:06, the fifth fastest this year after just out-sprinting Kogo, the former world 10K record holder and Beijing Olympics 10,000m bronze winner, who became the bridesmaid in 59:07 while Imane Merga of Ethiopia was third with 59:56 at the competition where about 40,000 runners started.
A fast race developed when five runners pulled away from the field early on led by Kogo and fellow-Emmanuel Bett who worked at the front with Mike Kigen, Merga and Kipsang following.
Kipsang, the reigning London and Frankfurt Marathon champion, sat back at the back of the pack for most of the first half.
Just five weeks after the Olympic Marathon he chose a more careful approach.
“I felt fine after the first half today,” he told IAAF.
The lead group passed the 10km mark in 28:02. At that time they were still on pace for the course record established by last year’s winner Martin Mathathi (Kenya/58:56).
After around 12Km, Kogo and Kipsang surged ahead and left the others well behind. Forcing the pace the two Kenyans opened a significant gap.
However Kogo and Kipsang could not quite keep up the pace since they lost a couple of seconds between 15Km (41:51) and 20Km (56:10), putting the course record out of reach.
But instead a fascinating finish developed. First it was Kipsang surging ahead when the road dropped steeply towards the long finishing straight next to the North Sea. However there was still one mile to go.
“I knew the straight was very long, so I was not worried,” said Kogo, who was fourth with 1:00:03 here a year ago. Kogo took the lead and with 100m to go carrying a two-metre lead, he looked to be the winner.
But somehow Kipsang managed to find another gear when there was no more than 50m to run.
“I was trying to run faster and faster because I knew Wilson was still behind me,” said Kogo.
“The gap was not too big so I said to myself, ‘hang on and give everything, it is still possible to win,” said Kipsang, who clocked the third fastest winning time in race history.
“I recovered well after the London Olympic race because it was not such a fast Marathon. Maybe I will now run another Marathon this autumn.”
Merga ran a great debut with a time of 59:56 for third while Kigen (1:00:18) and Bett (1:00:56) followed in fourth and fifth as Britain’s Chris Thompson came sixth with a personal best of 1:01:00.
In the corresponding women’s race Tirunesh who denied Sally Kipyego and Vivian Cheruiyot the 10,000m gold in London, moved ahead with 800 metres to go.
Gelana and Kiplagat held on but with 200m further down the Olympic marathon champion dropped back a little and the race was finally decided in the final 400 metres.
In the last lap on the track so familiar for Tirunesh from her great victories, the Ethiopian released the afterburners on Kiplagat who did extremely well considering that this race came only six weeks after the Olympic marathon.
“I was running carefully, because this was my first race at this distance. So I waited until in the last mile before I went ahead,” the winner expressed adding, “I expected to win today. And this race really helps me regarding my next step to the marathon.”
“If I will run on a fast course I want to break the world record,” she went on as she targeted the mark currently held by Kenyan Mary Keitany with 1:05:50.
“I had not specially prepared for this race,” added Olympic winner Gelana. “So this was a good result for me because I ran a personal best.
She shared her expectations of the winner as a marathoner stating, “Tirunesh will be a great marathon runner. She may even break the World record one day.”