Florence Kiplagat celebrates her victory at the 2016 Chicago Marathon (© Getty Images)
Florence Kiplagat successfully defended her Bank of America Chicago Marathon crown on Sunday (9) with a dominating 2:21:32 victory. In the men’s race, a tactical contest, Kenyan Abel Kirui dethroned defending champion Dickson Chumba to triumph at this IAAF Gold Label Road Race’s 39th edition in 2:11:23.
Kiplagat breaks away for fast solo effort
Under perfect race day conditions with clear skies and cool temperatures, Kiplagat was among a group of six women that ran together before Kiplagat made her move and pulled away at the 30 kilometre marker, covering the next five-kilometre segment in 16:17. Her lead continued to grow as she ran alone and gapped the competition to win by almost two minutes over compatriot Edna Kiplagat, who took second in 2:23:28.
“It was not really easy but I was confident when I saw the gap was opening,” Florence Kiplagat said.
Kiplagat looked back throughout the race despite not having anyone in sight around her as she was well in the clear to become the first woman to win consecutive titles since Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere won in 2006 and 2007.
“When I was coming here, I was determined to win two years in a row,” the winner, whose resume includes a pair of Berlin Marathon victories and the world record over the half marathon distance with 1:05:09, added.
“I just wanted to win twice and enter the book of records two times.”
Valentine Kipketer was third in 2:23:28, with Purity Rionoripo next in 2:24:47 to cap a top-four finish for Kenya. Ethiopian Yebrgual Melese was next a further two seconds behind.
Kirui the tactician
By contrast, the men’s race was a sluggish contest from the start, playing well into the hands of Kirui, a two-two world champion and Chumba, last year’s winner.
A slow and choppy pace figured prominently early on as the field crossed five kilometres in 16:06 and 10 kilometres in just 32:04, underscoring that tactical strategy the lead men had chosen.
Not much changed when a tightly bunched group of 14 runners crossed the half marathon mat in 1:06:50. In the meantime several surges were injected into the pace yet a chase pack would continually catch up to the leaders.
The stretch between 25 and 30 kilometres was slower still, just outside of 16 minutes, failing to further reduce the pack.
As the leaders approached 35 kilometres, Kenyan Paul Lonyangata injected another surge that finally whittled the lead pack to just four: Lonyangata, Kirui, Chumba, and Gideno Kipketer. Lonyangata was the first to drop back, followed by Kipketer.
Kirui finally spaced himself from Chumba in the final 500 metres and held on for the victory which he celebrated just beyond the finish line with a colourful dance.
"It's my first time to win on American soil, so I'm very excited," said Kirui, who took Olympic silver in London four years ago.
Chumba crossed the finish line second in 2:11:26 with Kipketer third in 2:12:20 to complete the Kenyan podium sweep.
Lonyangata was fourth in 2:13:17 with Stephen Sambu, in his marathon debut, fifth in 2:13:35.
The men’s winning time was the slowest since Luíz Antonio of Brazil took the title in 1993 clocking 2:13:14.
Stephen Reilly for the IAAF