Kenya’s Mike Kigen and Linet Masai produced commanding wins at Madrid’s famous San Silvestre Vallecana, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Thursday (31).
In doing so, Kigen successfully defended his title on the 10km course which stretches from the centre of Madrid to the finish in the stadium of La Liga football club Ray Vallecano in the Spanish capital’s southern suburbs.
The race kicked-off at a frantic pace as Kigen, shadowed by Venezuela’s Marvin Blanco, flew through the first kilometre in 2:40, which had the effect of destroying all their other rivals.
Blanco, almost inevitably, soon began to fade and Kigen went through the halfway point in 13:30, 50 seconds ahead of a large chasing group compounded by Spain’s Toni Abadía, Víctor García, Roberto Alaiz, Toni Abadía, Fernando Carro and Ilias Fifa among others, while the well-known US steeplechaser Evan Jager ran at the back of this group.
The second half of the event was a copy-and-paste from last year as Kigen’s relentless rhythm produced a stunning win in 27:35, the fourth fastest time in the history of the race and just eight seconds short of his personal best set in Berlin in 2010.
“I retained my title and ran faster than last year so I’m delighted. I now plan a half marathon likely in Abu Dhabi next February as a stepping stone for a spring marathon,” said Kigen, who is looking to improve on his best over the classic distance of 2:06:59, which he ran when finishing second at the 2015 Frankfurt Marathon.
The fight for the second place turned into a fierce battle between Jager and Fifa, the latter having finished a very creditable fifth at the European Cross Country Championships earlier in the month; but Jager’s track speed helped give him the runners up spot – the best ever for an US athlete in the history of the event – clinching his place over the final 200 metres before crossing the line 28:54 with Fifa two seconds in arrears.
“It’s hard for me to compete at this early stage of the season. I have performed over 10km at last (laughs) and the experience was not too bad,” reflected Jager.
“The world indoors will take place in my home town of Portland. I would like to be there in the 3000m but there will only two berths on offer to make the American team so it’s not going to be easy to compete there.
“I’ll next likely run indoors, New York and Boston I guess but my primary goal is to medal at the Olympics and running under eight minutes for the steeplechase has to also one of the major objectives of my career,” added the American.
Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi, the multiple 3000m steeplechase champion, was touted as one of the stars of the race but finished down in disappointing 21st place and more than three minutes behind his compatriot Kigen, after never being seriously involved in the sharp end of the race.
Now 33, Kemboi confirmed his goal for next season is to become the Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion for a third time. “Rio will be my last Olympics for sure, I’ll sit with my coach afterwards and decide what to do in the future but I think I’ll be competitive on the roads, maybe in the marathon event.”
The women’s event quickly became a solo display by 2013 San Silvestre Vallecana winner Linet Masai.
Taking advantage of the mixed event, the Kenyan star was in the company of good quality male club runners athletes which helped her to keep up a brisk pace throughout the race.
After a 15:29 split at the halfway point, Masai was never threatened and built up a sizeable margin of over a minute on France’s 2014 European 10,000m silver medallist Calvin Clemence.
Masai crossed the line in 31:38 to regain her title, with Calvin second in 32:41. Poland’s Iwona Lewandowska completed the podium in 32:53.
“It was my third appearance here and I got my second win today so it’s not bad. I like this race because you have plenty of downhill kilometres before the last uphill section,” reflected Masai.
“I’m not yet at top form since I suffered a knee injury at the beginning of the year which prevented me to compete at the world cross country championships. Anyway, my only focus in 2016 will be the Olympics where I would like to compete over 10,000m and go for the gold medal but firstly I’ll have to make the Kenyan team for Río which won’t be an easy task,” added the winner of the last IAAF competition of the year.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF