Ruth Chepngetich at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships (© Michelle Katami)
Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 world marathon champion, produced two amazing runs at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships – a World Athletics Cross Country Tour Bronze event – to win a pair of titles within an hour at the Kenya Prisons Training College in Ruiru.
Racing at the venue that was probably her training ground during her time in the Kenya Prisons Service, Chepngetich dominated the senior women’s 10km event, then anchored her team to victory in the mixed relay.
Kenya held its trial event for the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23 in December, but today’s event will be used to select national runners for the Sirikwa Classic – a World Cross Country Tour Gold meeting – in Eldoret on 4 February.
Within the first kilometre, Chepngetich – who led the world marathon list last year with 2:14:18, the second-fastest run in history – had stretched the senior women’s field to single file. By half way, her lead had grown to about 150 metres. She continued to lead, but Sheila Chepkirui – a 2:17:29 marathon runner – started to close the gap on Chepngetich.
The former world half marathon record-holder held on to win in 32:56, finishing two seconds ahead of Chepkirui.
Chepngetich returned to the course less than an hour later to take part in the mixed relay. After being handed the baton for the last leg, she overtook several runners and came through to notch up her second victory of the day.
In a senior men’s race that showcased some relatively new stars, a pack of about 11 runners were still in contention at the halfway point. As the pace increased, the lead pack was whittled down to seven.
At the end of a thrilling last lap of the two-kilometre circuit, Charles Katul Lokir edged past Isaac Kibet just before the finish line to win in 29:16, both men being given the same time.
Lokir, who earned team bronze in the U20 race at the 2019 World Cross, will now turn his attention to the Sirikwa Classic on 4 February. “I finished fifth there last year, so I hope to make it to the podium this time around,” said the 22-year-old.
Samuel Wanjiru won the U20 men’s 8km event, dominating the second half of the race. “I am happy to win,” he said. “I had prepared well in December to run at the national trials, but I was in Japan and could not travel in time to participate in the trials.”
Mercy Chesang, who is a first-year University of Nairobi Sports Science student, won the U20 women’s 6km race.
Five-time world cross-country champion Paul Tergat, who was this week announced the ambassador of the 2023 World Cross Country Championships, was in attendance in Ruira.
“Being named as an ambassador for World Cross Country event was a big honour not only to me but to the country,” he said. “It shows that the world sees what we have done for the sport. We have huge potential in terms of talent in future. I can see Kenyans continuing to dominate cross country and perhaps win more titles than I did.”
Justin Lagat for World Athletics
Senior women (10km)
1 Ruth Chepngetich 32:56
2 Sheila Chepkurui 32:58
3 Zena Chemutai 33:06
Senior men (10km)
1 Charles Lokir 29:16
2 Isaac Kibet 29:16
3 Dennis Kipngetich 29:23
U20 women (6km)
1 Mercy Sang 19:44
2 Miriam Chepkurui 19:54
3 Miriam Chemutai 20:04
U20 men (8km)
1 Samuel Kibathi Wanjiru 23:10
2 Simeon Maiyua 23:23
3 Shadrack Rono 23:30