Report15 Sep 2019

Weekend road round-up: race records fall in Sydney, Cape Town and Minsk


Stellah Barsosio wins the Sydney Marathon (© Organisers)

Organisers of the Blackmores Sydney Marathon asked for race records. Stellah Barsosio and Felix Kiprotich delivered the goods, slashing significant chunks off the previous best performances at the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (15).

Barsosio took pride of place, the 26-year-old from Iten was first woman to reach the finish on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House in 2:24:33. That was some four-and-a-half minutes faster than the previous race record set by Makda Harun Haji two years ago.

More than that, Barsosio’s was the fastest time run in Australia since the Sydney Olympic Games and now sits as third-fastest ever behind the gold medallist then, Naoko Takahashi, 2:23:14, and silver medallist Lidia Simon, 2:23:22. Fittingly, the Sydney marathon is a legacy event from the Olympic Games. Its early editions were run over the Olympic course.

Kiprotich, for his part, produced the first sub-2:10 in the Sydney race – 2:09:49. This was 89 seconds faster than the previous race record, 2:11:18 by Gebo Gameda Burka. Though it did not beat the Australian all-comers’ record of 2:07:50 set by Japan’s Yuta Shitara earlier this year at Australia’s other IAAF Gold Label race, the Gold Coast marathon, his performance is just the third sub-2:10 other than on Gold Coast. The other two also came with medals attached, Robert de Castella’s 2:09:18 in winning the Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games marathon, and Juma Ikangaa’s 2:09:30 in second place.

Even in a strong line-up, Stellah Barsosio stood out as the one to beat in the women’s field. She had the fastest entry time – 2:23:36 in Rotterdam this year – and her four most recent marathons had produced times of 2:23:43 (fifth in Paris), 2:25:00 (ninth in Frankfurt), 2:33:23 (second in Singapore) and then her PB for second in Rotterdam.

The race was taken out at a steady pace of about 72 minutes for the first half. Barsosio was content to sit with a lead pack of five women in which the most aggressive was her Kenyan compatriot Bornes Kitur (third in Osaka this year).

Bahrain’s Tejitu Daba and a third Kenyan, Josephine Chepkoech, were also in the lead group.

Into the second half of the race, however, it was all Barsosio. Sticking with the pacemaker, she steadily built her lead to more than two minutes at the finish. Her only difficulties were with her drinks bottle late in the race – she quickly doubled back to get it – and some hesitation on corners as the course wound its way around the Sydney harbour-front in the closing stages.

These turned out to be insignificant, however, and Barsosio’s 2:24:33 saw her well clear of Chepkoech (2:26:43) and Daba (2:28:22).

The men’s race followed a similar pattern as Ben St Lawrence and then 2:08 performer Joseph Aperumoi led through the first 25 kilometres.

St Lawrence went to almost half-way at which point the group was on course to go just under the record set by Gameda Burka in 2014. By the time Aperumoi’s work was done at 25km, there were just five in the leading group – Kiprotich, Michael Kunyuga, defending champion Elijah Kemboi, Silas Too and the only non-Kenyan, Saturo Sasaki of Japan.

Kiprotich, who has run 2:05:33 this year, made his decisive move at 29km. His surge took him clear as he ran the next five kilometres, which drops down to the waterfront, in the fastest split of the race, 14:55. The 15 seconds gained there was almost precisely his ultimate winning margin.

At 35km, the lead was 23 seconds to Kunyuga with Sasaki another 17 seconds back, well clear of Kemboi and Too. Kunyuga kept chasing, despite being clearly hindered by uncertainty on some of the turns in the closing stages, but was never charging at the leader. As Steve Moneghetti, on expert commentator duty with Steve Ovett on the direct telecast, observed, it was always Kiprotich’s race to lose.

And Kiprotich never faltered. Despite showing more obvious signs of the strain, he maintained form through to the line to win in 2:09:49. Both Kunyuga and Sasaki were also under the old record.

Both winners added record bonuses equal to first-place prizemoney to double their earnings on the day. Almost 40,000 participants took part in the marathon (5500 participants) and associated events on the day.

Len Johnson for the IAAF

Chepchirchir breaks course record in Cape Town

Celestine Chepchirchir took almost three minutes off the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon course record on Sunday (15), winning the IAAF Gold Label road race in 2:26:44.

Compatriot Edwin Koech made it a Kenyan double, winning the men’s title in 2:09:20 in a race where just nine seconds separated the top three finishers.

Helped by a pacemaker, Chepchirchir was one of five women in the lead pack as they passed through the half-way point in 1:12:06, hinting that the course record of 2:29:28 set last year by Helalia Johannes was under threat.

Shortly after passing 30km in 1:43:55, the lead pack was down to three women: Chepchirchir and Ethiopian duo Nurit Yimam and Mindaye Tilahun.

With just a few kilometres remaining, Chepchirchir finally managed to break free from her Ethiopian rivals and opened a gap of about 30 seconds at the 40km point. She went on to win in a big course record of 2:26:44, just two minutes shy of the PB she set when finishing third in Seoul earlier this year.

Yimam (2:27:40) and Tilahun (2:28:32) also finished inside the previous course record while fellow Ethiopian Urge Soboka was the fourth woman to complete the race inside 2:30, clocking 2:29:50.

For much of the men’s race, it looked as though the course record could fall. A large lead pack reached the half-way point in 1:03:52, on schedule to better the course record of 2:08:31 set last year by Stephen Mokoka.

Mohamed Ziani managed to stick with Kenyan duo Edwin Koech and Daniel Muteti through 30km, reached in 1:31:06, but the Moroccan dropped back slightly shortly afterwards and South Africa’s Elroy Gelant moved into third place.

From then on, Koech and Muteti were locked in their own battle for the top spot and ran side by side until the final 100 metres. They were so preoccupied with their duel that they hadn’t noticed Ziani had made up significant ground in the final kilometre.

Koech, however, managed to open a gap on Muteti just before the finish to claim victory in 2:09:20, five seconds ahead of Muteti. Ziani finished third in 2:09:29 while Gelant was fourth in 2:10:31.

Savina takes Minsk Half Marathon title in record time

After four top-four finishes between 2015 and 2018, Nina Savina of Belarus finally claimed top spot at the Minsk Half Marathon, clocking a course record and PB of 1:11:24 at the IAAF Silver Label road race on Sunday (15).

She had just Ethiopia’s Maregu Shegae for company through 10km, covered in 34:07, while Kenya’s Naomi Maiyo was a few seconds adrift. Shegae stuck with Savina past the 15km point, which they reached in 51:14, but the 26-year-old pulled clear in the final quarter of the race, winning in 1:11:24.

Shegae finished second in 1:12:18 while fellow Ethiopian Tesfanesh Merga came through to take third place in 1:12:50.

The men’s race played out in similar fashion as a Belarusian and an Ethiopian duelled for top honours. Mikola Lukhymchuk and Berhane Afewerki were together through 10km, covered in 30:19, before Lukhymchuk managed to pull clear over the next few kilometres, reaching 15km in 45:47, 22 seconds ahead of his Ethiopian opponent.

Afewerki responded in the final five kilometres, however, and overhauled Lukhymchuk before going on to win in 1:04:09, finishing 22 seconds ahead of the Belarusian. Kenya’s David Tarus was third in 1:05:33.