Barselius Kipyego en route to victory in the 2016 Usti nad Labem half marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo/organisers)
Barselius Kipyego and Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya cruised to convincing victories at the Mattoni Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Saturday (17).
The pre-race favourites lived up to expectations with Kipyego winning in 59:15, the fourth fastest performance in the world this year, and Jepchirchir clocking 1:07:24 to win by nearly a full minute in this sprawling northern Czech city.
Kipyego in command
The incessant, day-long rain magically subsided just prior to the race start, allowing the men's field, which featured four sub-one hour runners, to chase that barrier from the gun.
Abraham Kipyatich – the surprise winner at last weekend’s Birell Prague Grand Prix 10K in a world-leading 27:40 – wasted no time. In the pacer’s role for this contest, the Kenyan went to the front to lay down an ambitious race cadence targeted for a sub-60:00 finish.
An early lead pack of nearly a dozen racers was soon whittled down to four: Kenyans Kipyego, Peter Kwemoi and Geoffrey Kipyego and Adugna Takele of Ethiopia – all shadowing Kipyatich. At nine kilometres, Kipyego, antsy to go, threw down a move that only Kipyatich could cover as the duo broke away. Past 12 kilometres, in the solitude of the Spolchemie manufacturing facility, Kipyego put the race away with a strong surge that Kipyatich could not answer.
With his advantage growing with every stride, Kipyego breezed by 15 kilometres in 42:01 and sailed on to notch a dominating victory. For the 23-year-old, his winning time of 59:15 was a personal best by 15 seconds and destroyed Philemon Limo’s 2013 race record by a whopping 83 seconds.
In the race for the other podium positions, a heady charge over the final kilometres allowed Takele (1:01:31) to pass a fading Kipyatich for second while the pace-setter (1:01:40) managed to hold on for third. Peter Kwemoi finished fourth in 1:01:45.
Jepchirchir bides her time
With Jepchirchir, the world half marathon champion, sporting seasonal marks more than three minutes faster than any other woman in the field, the women’s race was expected to be a wire-to-wire solo performance by the 22-year-old Kenyan. The world champion didn’t break away from the gun – but she probably could have.
Initially running conservatively behind the pacesetter, Jepchirchir passed five kilometres in 15:53 while being closely shadowed by countrywoman Lucy Cheruiyot and Ethiopia’s Afera Godfay. But at nine kilometres, Jepchirchir made the decisive move. And just like that the race was seemingly over. But some drama remained.
Just before the 18-kilometre marker, Jepchirchir’s shoe was wriggling loose. Concerned it might fall off on its own, Jepchirchir stopped, yanked off the shoe, and spent precious seconds adjusting her laces before resuming her race against the clock. The defending champion was clinging on to race record pace, but would this brief interlude prevent her from eclipsing the record she set last year? It would., but she had no choice.
“I had to fix my shoe before it fell off,” explained the two-time champion who is building toward her October 30th marathon debut in the Frankfurt.
Although charging hard down towards the finish, Jepchirchir crossed the line in 1:07:24, seven seconds shy of her race record. Cheruiyot finished second in 1:08:17 and Godfay third in 1:08:32, massive personal bests for both athletes.
Organisers and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
1 Barselius Kipyego (KEN) 59:15
2 Adugna Takele (ETH) 1:01:31
3 Abraham Kapsis Kipyatich (KEN) 1:01:40
4 Peter Kwemoi (KEN) 1:01:45
5 Wilson Cheruiyot (KEN) 1:01:55
6 Milton Kiplagat Rotich (KEN) 1:02:18
7 Geoffrey Kipyego (KEN) 1:02:39
8 Stephen Omiso Arita (KEN) 1:02:49
9 Gabriel Gerald Geay (TAN) 1:03:03
10 Emmanuel Kiprono Kipsang (KEN) 1:03:06
1 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 1:07:24
2 Lucy Cheruiyot (KEN) 1:08:17
3 Afera Godfay (ETH) 1:08:32
4 Ashete Bekele (ETH) 1:11:52
5 Aberu Mekuria (ETH) 1:13:12
6 Fatna Maraoui (ITA) 1:13:17
7 Emmaculate Jebet (KEN) 1:13:21
8 Olha Kotovksa (UKR) 1:13:23
9 Kikuyo Tsuzaki (JPN) 1:13:26
10 Mary Wangari (KEN) 1:13:44