MILAN, Italy, Apr 3 -Edwin Kipngetich Koech took the honours at the Emporio Armani Milano Marathon, breaking the Italian all-comers’ record with 2:07:13 at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Kenyan improved the fastest ever time on Italian soil set by his compatriot Benjamin Kiptoo in Rome with 2:07:17 in 2009.
Meanwhile, compatriot Sheila Chepkoech produced a major surprise winning the women’s race in 2:29:52, breaking her personal best by more than 10 minutes.
Pacemakers Stefano La Rosa of Italy and Kenya’s Alex Korio and Joshua Kipkorir set a steady pace, going through the 10km mark in 30:03 ahead of an all-African pack formed by Edwin Koech, Eliud Bargnetuny Kiplagat, Kenneth Mungara and Henry Chirchir from Kenya and Abdela Godana from Ethiopia.
The seven-man pack went through at the halfway mark in 1:03.17, putting them on course for a sub-2:07 finish.
At 27km the leading pack was whittled down to five runners: Korio, Kipkorir, Mungara, Koech and Godana. Kipkorir was the first pacemaker to drop out at 28km, leaving Korio and Koech to go through 30km in 1:29:51, opening up a gap of four seconds over Mungara.
Koech broke away after 30km and continued to run at sub-2:06 pace, passing the 35km mark in 1:45:15. The Kenyan’s 1:50 lead over Mungara grew to more than two minutes by the finish as Koech crossed the finish line in 2:07:13.
Koech’s time smashed his previous personal best of 2:10:52 set in Verona last November. It also improved the previous course record of 2:07:53 set by Duncan Kibet in 2008.
Kenya’s 43-year-old Mungara, winner in Milan in 2015 and third in last year’s edition with a world M40 best of 2:08:38, finished runner-up, again dipping under 2:10 with 2:09:37 to finish ahead of Ehiopian Abdela Godana, who improved his PB by 92 seconds to 2:10:05.
Italy’s European under-23 10,000m bronze medallist Yassine Rachik was the first European finisher, placing sixth in 2:13:22 on his debut at the distance.
“I am so proud to win this race,” said Koech. “I expected to break the course record, as my training indicated that I was in very good shape. I thank the organisers, who made an excellent job contributing to this result.”
Mungara was also delighted with his third consecutive podium finish in Milan. “It was a very good race,” he said. “I always expect to be the No.1 runner.”
-Chepkoech leaves it late-
While men’s winner Koech ran alone for much of the final 10 kilometres, the women’s race was only decided in the closing stages as 27-year-old Kenyan Sheila Chepkoech held off 2010 European champion and 2008 Milan Marathon winner Anna Incerti by six seconds.
A group of six runners comprising Ethiopians Halima Hassen, Waka Tafa Chaltu and Kenyans Rose Jepchumba, Sheila Chepkoech, Vivian Jerono Kiplagat and Anna Incerti went through 10km in 35:15.
Kiplagat, Jepchumba, Chepkoech, Faltu and Incerti ran at the front, going through at the halfway mark in 1:14:30 and 30km in 1:46:31.
Chepkoech and Incerti pulled away after 35km and built up a 14-second lead over Kiplagat at 38km, which they passed in 2:15:14.
Chepkoech and Incerti battled it out until 40km. Chepkoech ran at the front but Incerti did not give up and kept the pace with the Kenyan. Chepkoech broke away in a dramatic neck-and-neck sprint in the final kilometre before crossing the finish-line in 2:29:52.
Incerti also dipped under 2:30 to finish runner-up in 2:29:58, the ninth sub-2:30 run of her career.
“I had a difficult period after the Olympic Games where I was forced to pull out of the race,” said 37-year-old Incerti.
“This result gives me confidence for the future. I dedicate this second place to my daughter Martina. I ran the 16th marathon race of my career today and I really wanted to achieve a good result. I am happy as this result qualifies me for the World Championships in London.”
1 Edwin Koech (KEN) 2:07:13
2 Kenneth Mungara (KEN) 2:09:37
3 Abdela Godana (ETH) 2:10:05
4 Henry Chirchir (KEN) 2:10:20
5 Eliud Kiplagat (KEN) 2:10:23
6 Yassine Rachik (ITA) 2:13:22
1 Sheila Chepkoech (KEN) 2:29:52
2 Anna Incerti (ITA) 2:29:58
3 Waka Chaltu (ETH) 2:31:38
4 Vivian Kiplagat (KEN) 2:32:37
5 Halima Hassen (ETH) 2:33:49