Kenya's Sarah Chepchirchir on her way to winning the Paris 20km (© Organisers)
Kenya’s Sarah Chepchirchir was an impressive winner of the 35th edition of the 20 Kilometres de Paris, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, as she smashed the race record with 1:05:03.
Tebalu Zawude became the first Ethiopian to win the men’s race, crossing the line in 58:07.
23,864 runners took to the startline at Pont d’Iena near the Eiffel Tower at 10am on Sunday. Last year rain got in the way of good performances, but this time the cool and sunny weather provided the perfect conditions in which to challenge the women’s course record of 1:05:28, set 13 years ago by Hellen Kimutai.
Kenya’s defending champion Cynthia Jerotich, who just missed the record by eight seconds last year, returned to the French capital in a bid to retain her crown.
As soon as the gun went off, ten women separated themselves from the rest of the field and ran at a steady pace until the third kilometre. Chepchirchir, winner of the 2011 edition, then decided to accelerate.
Jerotich and Gladys Kipsoi – who finished third last year – responded well, while Ethiopia’s Yebrqual Melese and Polish pair Iwona Lewandoska and Olha Kalendarova Ochal tried to stay in touch, eventually fading at the fourth kilometre.
The first three Kenyans reached the 5km checkpoint in 16:32, laying the foundations for a potential course record.
There were no changes in the gradual uphill climb along Bois de Boulogne, except that the leaders increased the margin over their opponents. The time at 10km, 32:10, confirmed that a record was likely.
Along the Quai de Seine, Kipsoi could no longer handle the fast pace, leaving Chepchirchir and Jerotich to reach the 15km mark in 48:25. Kipsoi, who was now 25 seconds behind, let her compatriots battle for the victory, with the likelihood of a comeback from anyone else in the race looking remote.
The end of the race was thrilling as the past two winners in Paris began their sprint in the last U-turn of the circuit. Chepchirchir was the strongest and smashed the course record by 25 seconds with 1:05:03. Jerotich finished in 1:05:08, also comfortably inside Kimutai’s old mark.
Zawude wins men's race in sprint finish
In contrast to the women, the men set out at a relatively slow pace, running 3:07 for the first kilometre. It soon became clear that Evans Cheruiyot’s course record of 57:19 from 2005 was safe.
A large group of about 20 runners crossed the Bois de Vincennes and joined the Quais de Seine. After the 10th kilometre, Ethiopia’s Tebalu Zawude became more animated and he was joined by Kenyans Charles Ogari and Alfred Cherop.
Tactics came into play with attacks at each exit of the tunnels along the river. The three leading men gradually separated themselves from the pack and reached 15km in about 44 minutes.
The closing stages played out in much the same way as in the women’s race. The third runner, Cherop, left the first two out in front as the victory was decided by a final sprint near the Eiffel Tower.
The 25-year-old Zawude looked the least fatigued of the pair, as he was quickest to react during each injection of pace in the race. His winning time of 58:07 was a personal best, although he likely covered the same distance much quicker en route to his 1:00:33 Half-marathon PB in Rabat earlier this year.
Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF
1 Tebalu Heyi Zawude (ETH) 58:07
2 Charles Ogari (KEN) 58:08
3 Alfred Cherop (KEN) 58:24
4 Ezechiel Nizigiyimana (BDI) 58:47
5 Stephen Ogari (KEN) 58:51
1 Sarah Chepchirchir (KEN) 1:05:03
2 Cynthia Jerotich (KEN) 1:05:08
3 Gladys Kipsoi (KEN) 1:06:13
4 Leonidah Mosop (KEN) 1:07:09
5 Iwona Lewandowska (POL) 1:08:00