The Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon lived up to its tradition of producing new talent when little known Peter Kosgei and Eunice Jeptoo won this year’s men and women races.
The 26-year-old Kosgei, who hails from Elgeyo-Marakwet, played his cards close to his chest up until the last 200 metres when he powered through, brushing aside leaders Weldon Kirui and Elisha Kiprop to win in 2 hours 12 minutes and 24 seconds in a close finish.
Kiprop, who was making his third appearance after finishing 17th in 2011 and sixth in 2012, finished second in 2:12:28 as Kirui, the winner of the 2012 Kass Marathon settled for third in 2:12:44.
The Kenya Defense Forces athletes dominated the women’s race as Private Eunice Jeptoo, who is based at Nyali Barracks, virtually led from start to finish claiming victory in 2:43:05.
Jeptoo, 30, outsmarted former international Irene Kwambai of Nyali Barracks to second place as the 36-year-old Corporal, who won silver in the 10,000m at the 2004 Africa Championships and bronze at the 2007 All Africa Games over the same distance, clocked 2:44:16.
The women’s winning time the second slowest since Rose Jepkemboi Chesire’s victory of 2:44:14 in 2007.
Kosgei and Jepto went home Sh1.5m richer each with the second and third-placed athletes in each of the categories winning Sh650,000 and Sh350,000 respectively.
The 21-year-old Barselius Kipyego from Kapsabet won the men’s 21km race in 1:03:12 while Trans Nzoia’s Lydia Naliaka Simiyu, 18, snatched women’s title in 1:14:52.
Once again, the organisers failed to break the jinxed in the 10km races where the police and guide cars led athletes in the wrong direction to get a different set of winners.
Even as David Wata (38:30.0) and Faith Chemutai (35:52.0) were declared winners, their times were also controversial as the men’s time ought to have been faster than women’s.
The men’s full marathon race was a cagey contest that saw an exchange of leads from the 15 athletes that were huddled together for the better part of the race.
It was until the 37km mark that Kirui, who comes from Bomet, shot to the lead, dragging along Kosgei and Kiprop.
Kirui’s strength started to curve in with Kiprop in tow. It was thereafter that Kosgei summoned his power to zoom past the two to win.
“I knew I had a good kick and I had some strength remaining in me. It was easy for me to read their strength behind them and that is when I went for the kill with 200 metres remaining,” said Kosgei, who finished third at the 2011 Kass Marathon before returning to finish second the following year.
“I now want to get a manager and perhaps try out a major race next year,” said Kosgei, who represented Kenya as a junior during the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.
“My focus was on Kirui and I only realised it too late that Kosgei was equally strong,” said Kiprop, who finished third during the Hong Kong Marathon in February.
“I miscalculated my strength when he pushed much in the last five kilometres,” said Kirui.
Jeptoo said it was her intention to hit the front early and win the women’s race.
“I wanted to control the race from the front and with no push from behind I took it easily,” said Jeptoo, who had only competed at the local cross country events at 1,500m on the track for KDF.
Kwambai was happy to be back after an 18-month sabbatical.
“I have been bogged down by my job commitments but I am back and I feel strong,” said Kwambai, who wants to battle for a place in the marathon team for next year’s World Championships.