Ernest Kebenei braved a piercing groin pain with two kilometres remaining to claim his maiden marathon victory at the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon on Sunday.
And competing in her first marathon race on Kenyan soil, Margaret Toroitich Karie broke from the field at the 10km mark to win the women’s race under a cool and fantastic morning weather.
The 27-year-old Kebenei, who won the 2009 Standard Chartered Nairobi Half Marathon, swept the flat course in 2 hours 10 minutes 54 seconds to miss the course record by 42 seconds and a Sh250,000 bonus had he established a new mark.
Kebenei was nonetheless on his highest payday ever, of Sh1.5 million, as he outran Franklin Chepkwony (2:10.59) and Simon Kiprop (2:11.04) who finished in second and third place, respectively.
What with the wedding bells beckoning for Kebenei, who is set to walk his sweetheart, Pamela Cheruiyot, down the aisle in December. Cheruiyot, who is not an athlete, is a student at Baraton University.
Powered by male pacesetters, Toroitich, who finished third at the 2008 Mumbai Marathon, virtually conquered the women’s race single-handedly as she registered a personal best time of 2:30.17, improving her feat by 13 seconds.
Toroitich, who was making a comeback in marathon since the 2008 Mumbai Marathon having won her debut marathon at the 2004 Kust Marathon in Belgium, breasted the tape with 2009 Hong Kong Marathon champion Winfrida Kwamboka (2:31.33) and Emily Chepkorir (2:34.21) in pursuit to go home Sh1.5 million richer.
Felt pain in groin
Security was tight as 15,000 runners took part in the event staged along Uhuru Highway and Mombasa Road in the Kenyan capital city.
Kebenei, who hails from Sugoi, Eldoret North, broke from a pack of 14 runners alongside Chepkwony with four kilometres to go. But it was Kebenei who proved stronger, staying ahead despite some piercing groin pain at the 40km mark.
“It’s only after I set my eyes on Nyayo National Stadium when coming back that I felt pain in my groin. With Chepkwony charging fiercely, I prayed to God not to let this pot break at the doorstep and I thank him for answering my prayer on this beautiful morning,” said Kebenei.
Kebenei declared his interest in the Dubai Marathon title in January, having embraced athletics in 2004 while at Kapikwen High School in Nandi where he competed in 10,000m.
Now set to move to his own house after living with his brother Hillary Lelei, Kebenei said he will use his purse money to develop his plot in Eldoret town.
Kebenei’s victory not only came two years after his Half Marathon exploits at the same event but also America’s Finest City Half Marathon and Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, both in USA, the same year. But his Half Marathon PB is 1:01:50, set at Dordrecht Half Marathon in South Africa in 2007.
Toroitich, who warmed up for the event at Ndakaini Half Marathon in September, said she will invest her prize money in her two children’s education.
Besides, the Kaptagat/Chepkoilel-based athlete hopes her performance will spur her manager, Gianni Demadonna, to secure a big race for her in London, Singapore or Hong Kong.