PRAGUE, May 8 – Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono and Lucy Karimi claimed victories at the Volkswagen Prague Marathon on Sunday morning.
Cherono made a powerful late-race surge to win the men’s race in 2:07:24, taking over two minutes off his previous best, while compatriot Lucy Karimi did likewise to take the women’s title in 2:24:46.
With the sun rising high in the sky by the time the event got under way and temperatures steadily climbing to 19C throughout the morning the pace was kept to a steady tempo over the opening half of both races.
In the men’s race, a group of 11 passed 10km in 30:00, only marginally picking up the pace thereafter, the lead pack reduced to nine by the time they reached 20km in 59:49.
At halfway, passed in 1:03:06, Ethiopia’s Seboka Dibaba was the only non-Kenyan among the leading pack, which was reduced to eight by the time the leaders reached 30km in 1:30:18.
At that point, it was clear the course record of 2:05:39 – set by Eliud Kiptanui in 2010 – was out of reach, but nonetheless the leaders began to slowly crank down through the gears.
The athlete most keen to push things along was Kenya’s Felix Kandie, who whittled the leading pack down to three as he passed 35km in 1:45:28. Running alongside him were compatriots Lawrence Cherono and Solomon Yego.
However just past the 37km mark, Yego found the pace too hot to handle and lost contact with the leading duo. At that point, Kandie continued to apply pressure up front, but Cherono seemed comfortable on his shoulder.
Shortly after the 38km mark, Cherono surged to the front and created an advantage, one which he would extend all the way to the finish.
Cherono raised his arms aloft as he crossed the line in 2:07:24, over two minutes faster than his previous best of 2:09:39, which he ran to win the Zurich Marathon last year.
“I liked the race,” said Cherono. “It was very nice. I felt very tired at the end because the course was tough, not very flat, so it tired me out. I am happy because I improved my best time.”
Kandie faded badly over the closing kilometres but still managed to come home second in 2:08:14, well clear of fellow Kenyan Solomon Yego, who ran 2:08:31 to finish third.
Karimi shows her class with late surge
In the women’s race, Lucy Karimi upset the odds and showed her rivals a clean pair of heels in the closing kilometre to take victory in 2:24:46, carving more than two minutes off her previous best of 2:27:08, set in Dubai last year.
With organisers employing male pacemakers for the women’s race, the pace was decent through the opening 10km, without being overly strenuous. A leading group of seven women passed 10km in 34:21, a pace which was maintained until 20km, which was reached in 1:08:48.
Ethiopia’s Marta Lema led a group of five women through the halfway point in 1:12:33, with countrywoman Biruktayit Eshetu and Kenya’s Purity Rionoripo, Lucy Karimi and Rael Nguriatukei all maintaining close contact.
Karimi soon began to force things along at the front, and she passed 30km in 1:42:49 with just Lema and Rionoripo for company.
Rionoripo began to press ahead with five kilometres to run, and though her surge put paid to Lema’s chances, she was unable to drop Karimi.
With less than one kilometre to run, Karimi unleashed a vicious turn of pace and moved clear of Rionoripo, and she was all alone when she crossed the finish line in 2:24:46, 14 seconds clear of Rionoripo.
“The course was too tough, and the weather was too hot,” said Karimi afterwards. “I went with one kilometre to go, and my body felt very good from there.”
Kenya’s Risper Chebet overtook Lema in the closing kilometres to take third in 2:27:23, with the Ethiopian having to settle for fourth in 2:28:02.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF
1 Lawrence Cherono (KEN) 2:07:24
2 Felix Kandie (KEN) 2:08:14
3 Solomon Yego (KEN) 2:08:31
4 Daniel Wanjiru (KEN) 2:09:25
5 Samuel Kosgei (KEN) 2:10:12
1 Lucy Karimi (KEN) 2:24:46
2 Purity Rionoripo (KEN) 2:25:00
3 Rispir Chebet (KEN) 2:27:23
4 Marta Lema (ETH) 2:28:02
5 Rael Nguriatukei (KEN) 2:28:46