NAIROBI, Kenya, June 30 –Pre-race favourite Philemon Mbaaru lived up to his expectations as he battled tough conditions to clinch a hat-trick of titles at the Safaricom Marathon as the 19th edition graced by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta went down at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy on Saturday.
The women’s category saw Jane Ngima take the title in 2:51:36 after flooring Esther Macharia who came second in a time of 2:53:41 as Mary Mwaniki completed the podium finish returning 5:29:31.
Being one of the toughest marathons in the world since its being run in the wilderness, the race delayed for almost five minutes to allow the organisers clear the Rhinos and elephants on the course.
However, that did not affect experienced Mbaaru who cruised to his sixth Safaricom Lewa Marathon men’s title, recording 2:22:21, dropping three seconds from the time he won with last year.
The 37-year old beat his close contender Peter Wahome who was second in 2:22:33 while Silas Gichovi settled for third in 2:23:23.
Running under scorching sun in the event where wild animals are privileged to be among the spectators, Mbaaru dismissed claims that he won the race because he clearly knows the course well but attributed stiff competition imposed by Wahome.
“The competition was very tough because you never know what to expect from every athlete. The first loop was not bad because I was leading with a big gap but in the second loop the second placed kept me in check, running behind my shoulder but I put more effort to beat him,” Mbaaru, who trains in Nyeri-Nanyuki Highway said.
“The secret of winning is training hard, not the case of knowing the course, if an athlete has a big mileage he/she will win the race,” Mbaaru, who won Sh150,000 and a mobile phone for crosing the line first added.
Battling the tough terrain that had six water stops and five misting stations to cool the heat, Mbaaru made the turning point at the 38km, out kicking Wahome and go all the way to cut the tape under warm reception of his wife who was waiting for him at the finish.
Delighted Mbaaru, the 2014 Casablanca winner, will be preparing to compete in an international race in September.
Moris Munene dominated the men’s Half Marathon winning in 1:05:39 ahead of Kiprono Kipkemboi who clocked 1:06:07 while Silas Kimutai completed the podium finish in 1:06:243.
The corresponding women’s race was ruled by Lepekana Perendis who timed 1:16:34, cutting the tape ahead of Esther Wangui who finished in 1:20:01 to be placed third.