Francis Kiprop wins the 2014 Milano City Marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Kenya claimed a winning sweep on Sunday (6) at the 14th edition of the SuisseGas Milano City Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Race, thanks to Francis Kiprop and Visiline Jepkesho.
On a warm and sunny day, Kiprop took the honours in the men’s race with 2:08:53, his fastest time for five years. Jepkesho made a winning debut to her marathon career with 2:28:40, beating last year’s winner Monica Jepkoech by more than six minutes.
The men’s race set off at a fast pace with twelve runners in the lead over the first 10km. Pacemakers Alex Korio, Abraham Akopesha and Abdom Mulu led the front group, passing 5km in 14:59 and 10km in 30:30.
The leading pack featured Stephen Tum, Daniel Too, Edwin Koech, Joash Mutai, Abraham Tarbei, Francis Kiprop from Kenya, Wolde Debebe Tolossa from Ethiopia, Gebrehegziaber Kibrom from Eritrea and Frank Caldeira from Brazil.
The race was faster than planned and at one point indicated a possible attack on the 2:07 barrier and the course record set by Kenyan Duncan Kibet who ran 2:07:53 in 2008.
Ten men were still at the front at the half-way mark, reached in 1:03:35, which was right on target of the pace agreed on the eve of the race. But the rhythm was somewhat inconsistent, going from a 2:55 split between 12km and 13km, to 3:06 at 15km followed by another kilometre in 3:06.
The race was decided at 28km when Kiprop, Tum and 2012 Milan winner Too broke away, opening up a 20-second gap on Kibrom. The leading trio went through 30km in 1:30:42 when they reached the Piazza del Duomo, one of the symbols of the Italian Northern city.
Kiprop then pulled away, opening up a gap of 33 seconds over Tum at 35km, reached in 1:46:02. The rising temperature took its toll in the final kilometres but Kiprop managed to run faster than 2:09.
The last time Kiprop ran faster than his winning time in Milan was when he set his personal best of 2:07:04 at the 2009 Berlin Marathon. Today’s race was his 21st career marathon and just his third victory over the classic distance. His other wins came in Madrid in 2013 with 2:10:37 and in Beijing in 2011 with 2:09:00.
“At 30km, I realised I could win,” said Kiprop, who hails from Kaptabet and has five children. “I would like to return to Milan next year to break the course record. The course was good but it was hot at the end.”
Tum finished runner-up in 2:10:41, holding off Kibrom (2:11:12). The first European finisher was Ukraine’s Igor Oliferenko, who finished fourth in 2:13:10, more than two minutes ahead of a tired Too, who finished fifth in 2:15:13.
The Milan Marathon doubled up as the Italian Marathon Championships. The national title went to marathon veteran Danilo Goffi, the 1998 European silver medallist, who finished sixth overall in 2:17:20.
Debutant defeats defending champion
Last year’s Milan Marathon winner Monica Jepkoech, Visiline Jepkesho, Tsegaye Beyene and Tafa Megersa Mergertu – sister of 2006 Milan winner Askale Tafa – went to the front in the early stages, going through 5km in 17:07 and 10km in 34:08.
After 13 miles, Jepkesho surged and pulled away from Jepkoech and Megersa. The marathon debutant reached halfway in 1:12:13 with a 15-second gap over Jepkoech.
The half-way split was just 23 seconds slower than Jepkesho’s half-marathon PB, but she continued to run at 2:25 pace through to 25km. Having to run alone for most of the second half, the pace dropped slightly in the final 12km before she eventually crossed the finish-line in 2:28:40.
Jepkesho is the latest Milan winner in a long line of Kenyan starts, joining the likes of 2002 winner Margaret Okayo, 2004 champion Rita Jeptoo, 2005 victor Hellen Kimutai and 2007 first-place finisher Pamela Chepchumba
“I came here just to learn how to run a marathon,” said Jepkesho, who trains with Priscah Jeptoo and is married to the brother of Rita Jeptoo, another of her training partners. “For most of the race, I was confident that I could win. The weather was ideal for me as it was not too humid. I want to run other marathon races in the future.”
The 14th edition of the Milan Marathon, held in an enjoyable atmosphere on a warm spring day, saw 14,027 runners take to the streets from Rho Pero in the early Sunday morning.
No fwer than 4500 took part in the marathon, while 2378 teams participated in the Europ Assistance Relays Marathon to help raise funds for charity organisations. Many present and past running stars like 2004 Olympic champion Stefano Baldini, world silver medallist Valeria Straneo and Emma Quaglia took part in the relay.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 Francis Kiprop (KEN) 2:08:53
2 Stephen Kipkemei Tum (KEN) 2.10:41
3 Ghebre Kibrom (KEN) 2:11:12
4 Igor Olefirenko (UKR) 2:13:10
5 Daniel Too (KEN) 2:15:13
1 Visiline Jepkesho (KEN) 2:28:40
2 Monica Jepkosgei (KEN) 2:34:49
3 Megersa Megertu Tafa (ETH) 2:35:41
4 Tsegaye Beyene (ETH) 2:36:23