ISIOLO, Kenya, June 25 – Fridah Lodepa clearly loves Safaricom Lewa Marathon. The former Kuala Lumpur champion prevailed the scorching sun to grab her fourth successive title in the women’s race at the 17th edition run at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy on Saturday.
In the men’s race, 2014 Casablanca winner, Philemon Baaru returned to reclaim the title in 2:22:42 despite struggling to recover from a nagging leg injury.
Star Eliud Kipchoge, who is the reigning London Marathon champion, finished fourth in the men’s 21km as he stepped up his preparations for the August Rio Olympics.
“This was a good experience, I was in the middle of training, infarct on Thursday I did a 40km run so I wanted to run half marathon which is a good test for my body. I was not preparing for Lewa, I am preparing for Rio Olympics and to finish fourth with all this talented guys it’s really good,” Kipchoge said after crossing the finish line.
Since 2013, the women’s race has belonged to 35-year-old Lodepa, who took the honours in 2:48.22, 24 seconds ahead of Mary Ndengo while Rispa Lagat retained her third position after stopping the timer in 2:52:35 to lead the challenger’s home in the tough course for third.
Running under baking conditions of the annual event, categorised as one of the toughest marathons where wild animals are privileged to be among the spectators saw Lodepa, once again display her mastery to triumph.
However, despite mastering the course, Lodepa faced stiff competition this year, after having to sweat to catch up with Ndengo, who led to better part of the race until the 38km mark.
Experience helped Lodepa to overtake Ndengo who was out of gas to settle for second place.
The delighted winner, who will return to Kuala Lumpur in August, said she will be going for the record fifth title next year in the high altitude area.
“I feel happy to win it four times in a row; the race was hard today not like last year. The second finisher gave me a stiff competition and I had to work extra hard to catch up with her at 38km, she was almost finishing. When I caught her she told me to go ahead because she was tired,” the mother of two said after crossing the finish line.
The helicopter went airborne as early as 6am to keep away dangerous animals like lion, rhino and elephants in the Lewa Downs Conservancy where the event is held but Lodepa, who trains in Iten, attributed her success to her spouse and coach Elikanah Ruto.
The corresponding men’s race saw Baaru return to the event for the fourth time after winning three times back-to-back in 2014.
Paul Maina settled for second place in 2:24:23 while Peter Wahome completed the podium in 2:24:47.
Having managed to keep on the speedy pace of the half marathon runners, Baaru, stuck with the leading pack of five before breaking at 33km to take charge up to the finish-line and claim fourth Lewa title.
He was returning from a leg injury that saw him drop out last year, in a race that was won by Elijah Mbogo.
“The course was not that good because it had much soil. I also faced challenge with the fun runners who block people, if it was good, they should be using the left side to avoid confusion,” the 35-year-old said.
“Mastering of the route is not the case here because if you have not trained well despite knowing the course it can’t help you, also confidence is really important. The competition was tough because we started together with half marathoners which requires speed but you have to manage starting with them so that you can take the first position,” he added.
In the 21Km race, Pauline Wanjiku Njeru, who was a pace setter at the 2016 London Marathon, dominated the women’s race in ahead of Emmah Muthoni as Nancy Katheka finished third.
The corresponding men’s race saw defending champion Robert Wambua settle for third place after losing the title to Peter Wambua while Douglas Chebii crossed the line second.
1.Philemon Baaru 2:22:42
2.Paul Maina 2:24:23
3.Peter Wahome 2:24:47
4.Sammy Kurgat 2:25:08
5. Paul Chege 2:25:46
1.Fridah Ledopa 2:48:22
2.Mary Ndengo 2:48:46
3.Risper Lagat 2:52:35
4.Milliam Embogon 3:01:30
5.Doris Tondoros 3:04:05