Kenya’s marathon debutante Ruth Chepng’etich shattered the Turkish all-comers’ record when she won Istanbul Marathon, as compatriot Dominic Ruto also cruised to a course record victory at Beirut Marathon, Lebanon all on Sunday.
Another Kenyan, Flomena Cheyech, who is also the Commonwealth marathon champion, broke away from Bahrain’s Shitaye Eshete in the final metres to win the Saitama International Marathon, Japan on Sunday.
Chepng’etich, who was making her debut in marathon, clocked 2 hours, 22 minutes and 36 seconds in a race, where Kenyan born Abraham Kiprotich of France won the men’s race in 2:11:22, beating Kenyan Jacob Kendagor to second in 2:11:27.
Seven months after her surprise 1:06:19 course record victory at the Vodafone Istanbul Half Marathon, Chepng’etich sliced nearly five minutes off the long-standing race record of 2:27:27, set by Ethiopia’s Ashu Kasim Roba in 2010.
The 23-year old Kenyan, who ran shoulder to shoulder with her compatriot Visiline Jepkesho for 40 kilometres, crossed the finish line four seconds ahead of pre-race favourite. Jepkesho, the 2015 Paris Maratyhon champion, settled for second in 2:22:40.
A group of six athletes – including Ethiopian trio Letebrhan Haylay, Mulu Seboka, Sinke Dessie and Kenya’s Sharon Jemutai Cherop – led the field from the gun, passing 10 kilometres in 34:53. Having to battle strong winds thereafter, Chepngetich, Jepkesho and Haylay proved to be the strongest athletes and had built up a 300-metre lead over their rivals by 15km, which they reached in 52:09.
The trio passed half way in 1:11:53, suggesting a course record was highly likely, and were still together up to the 27th kilometre until Haylay started to lose ground.
It then became a race between the two Kenyans and, surprisingly, it was the inexperienced Chepngetich who coped better with the difficult uphill section towards the finish line.
Chepngetich pocketed a total of US$90,000 (Sh 9 million) for her effort, while Jepkesho took home a prize purse of US$65,000 (Sh 6.5million). Haylay placed third in 2:25:14, just 13 seconds shy of her career best.
In Beirut, despite extremely warm conditions, Ruto took 23 seconds off the race record to win the men’s race in 2:10:41, while Kenyan born Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba ran 2:28:38 to improve the women’s record by more than half a minute.
Ruto overcame his favoured compatriot and defending champion Edwin Kiptoo to capture first place and the US$10,000 (Sh 1million) prize money. He out-sprinted Adane Amsalu on the finishing straight to beat the Ethiopian by four seconds, while Kiptoo could manage only third in 2:11:56.
“When I was at 38 kilometres, I realised my body was good and I realised that I could catch them because there were three in the front,” said Ruto. “My body was ok and so I managed to push and to catch them at 40 kilometres.”
Chumba prevailed as expected in the women’s race, pulling away from defending champion Tigist Girma of Ethiopia in the final 10 kilometres.
Her winning time of 2:28:38 capped a brilliant season for the 24-year-old who ran 2:24:27 for second in Rotterdam before establishing an Asian half marathon record of 1:06:11 in Copenhagen.
In Japan, Cheyech won the IAAF Silver Label road race in 2:28:39, beating Shitaye Eshete Habtegebrel from Bahrain in 2:28:42 as Ethiopian Bekelech Daba came in third in 2:30:06.
“The final meters were very tough for me because I thought Eshete was stronger,” said Cheyech, who finished fourth at this year’s World Championships, just three seconds shy of a medal.
“My husband ran the last 400 metres alongside me, cheering at the same time, and it really helped.”