PARIS, April 3 – Kenya’s Cyprian Kotut won Sunday’s 40th edition of the Paris marathon, adding to his victory in the half-marathon here less than a month ago.
Kotut, 24, finished in an official time of 2hr 07min 11sec, well short of Kenenisa Bekele’s course record from two years ago, but comfortably clear of his previous personal from his debut in Milan last year.
Kotut was one of eight runners in contention after 35 kilometres, before Ethiopia’s Gebretsadik Abraha upped the pace heading into the final 4km.
Kotut then pulled clear shortly afterwards and held off his rivals as he cruised across the line unchallenged, with fellow Kenyans Laban Korir and Stephen Chemlany joining him on the podium.
“I wasn’t too sure if I needed to speed up or not because I still don’t really know the course layout. I simply planned to beat my own personal record,” said Kotut, competing in just his second marathon.
“There were still some really strong guys, I didn’t expect to be as far ahead.”
Kotut, meanwhile, followed in the footsteps of older brother Martin Lel, a three-time champion at the London Marathon, when speeding to victory.
As expected, the men’s race was a wide-open contest, with the battle for supremacy played out in the closing stages.
Headed by Cosmas Birech, Solomon Yego and Thomas Kiplagat, a large group of 15 runners went through 5km in 14:32, suggesting a possible finish time of about 2:03:00, but the rhythm soon slowed and the leading pack hit the 10km mark in 29:35.
After passing the 20km checkpoint in 59:37, the three pacemakers distanced themselves from the rest of the group, with Ethiopia’s Azmeraw Mengistu a few metres behind and the chasing pack about 30 metres in arrears.
The main group went through halfway in 1:02:47, still on course to challenge the course record of 2:05:03 set by Bekele in 2014.
When the first of the pacemakers dropped out, Kiplagat and Yego still were at the front, a few seconds ahead of the favourite’s group, while the defending champion Mark Korir started to fade before stepping off the course.
At 30km both remaining pacemakers stepped aside, leaving nine runners up front with a pair of Ethiopians and seven Kenyans still in contention.
At this time, Korir, who was sixth last year, was the first to ramp up the pace of the leading pack, but he didn’t manage to escape.
Then the group whittled down to seven at the instigation of Luka Landa.
The rhythm slowed down between the 30km and 35km, the section covered in 15:22, which allowed the leading pack to remain compact with eight runners at the front.
At 38km, Gebretsadik Abraha, who finished third in the Amsterdam Marathon in 2012, produced a big surge and the rest of the field broke up behind him.
Kotut controlled the attack and joined him at the front before making his move for victory. He created a small gap over Abraha, who quickly struggled to hold on and began to pay for his vicious surge.
Behind Kotut, Stephen Chemlany moved into second place and seemed to even be in contention for victory with three kilometres to run, but a resolute Kotut continued to kick on. Around 40km, his lead grew to 10 seconds over Chemlany and Laban Korir.
Kotut crossed the finish line all alone and afterwards admitted he didn’t expect to take such a major title with his relative lack of experience at the distance.
Korir held on to take second place in 2:07:29 as Chemlany rounded out the podium eight seconds adrift.
On the women’s side, Jepkesho, winner in Milan and Lisbon two years ago, took the title with an impressive display of strength over the final 10km.
Jepkesho led a pack of six athletes past the halfway point in 1:12:32. With 15km to go, four runners were still at the front with Gulume Chala, defending champion Meseret Mengistu, Dinknesh Tefera and Jepkesho all set to battle for the title.
After going through the 30km checkpoint in 1:43:23, Jepkesho changed gears at the front, and only Chala managed to handle the pace.
With 10km to km, Jepkesho continued to press on and created a little gap over Chala, and she sustained the rhythm to the line, breaking the tape in 2:25:53, 21 seconds ahead of Chala, with Tefera coming through for third in 2:28:12.
“My goal was to improve my PB (2:24:44),” said Jepkesho. “Unfortunately I didn’t succeed but I’m very happy to win. During the race, I was expecting someone to move. But when I saw no one did, i decided to move.”
1 Cyprian Kotut (KEN) 2:07:11
2 Laban Korir (KEN) 2:07:29
3 Stephen Chemlany (KEN) 2:07:37
4 Micah Kogo (KEN) 2:08:03
5 Gebretsadik Abraha (ETH) 2:08:18
1 Visiline Jepkesho (KEN) 2:25:53
2 Gulume Chala (ETH) 2:26:14
3 Dinknesh Tefera (ETH) 2:28:12
4 Rebecca Chesire (KEN) 2:31:29
5 Yebrgual Melese (ETH) 2:32:05
-additional material from IAAF used to compile this report-