Africa 10,000m champion Wilson Kiprop on Saturday ended Zersenay Tadese’s four-year reign as the world’s premiere Half Marathoner as Kenyans continued posting brilliant track results across the globe.
Kiprop claimed the title at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships on Saturday, while Florence Kiplagat won the women’s crown to complete the first national double victory at these championships since 1999.
It was only the fourth time that one nation’s runners ran to gold since the inception of these championships in 1992. The other three were Kenyan pairs as well; in 1999 it was luminaries Tegla Loroupe, who won her third of three straight titles, and Paul Tergat, who collected his second of two victories. For Kiprop and Kiplagat, quite a nice duo to follow.
“This is the first (men’s) win for Kenya in a very long time. And I’m very, very happy for that,” said Kiprop, whose pre-race credentials, including a 59:39 over the distance one month ago which placed him among the biggest threats to defeat Tadese, the World record holder.
That triumph didn’t come until the final 200 metres of a bitterly fought battle which saw Kiprop’s confidence rise with every powerful stride. “I was not yet confident because I knew it would be a fight in the last two hundred metres, so I was just holding on,” Kiprop said. “In the last 100 metres I saw that I was strong and I was able to run away.”
But the lanky runner who confidently strode across the finish line was anything but confident in the run-up to the race. “Before the race I was weak,” Kiprop readily admitted.
“After midnight I was still awake, thinking about all the top guys who were in the race. I was so fearful. I didn’t sleep well because I was thinking of the other guys and thinking about how to win this.”
“In fact,” he continued,” I woke up very early - I was just walking from my bed to the toilet. I was trembling.” In addition to the day’s conditions, 22 C. with 65 percent humidity, both Kiprop and Kiplagat dealt with something the local balmy climate had nothing to do with.
Rather, just the simple fact of bouncing back from their arduous journey to Nanning, a whirlwind adventure that lasted just over 40 hourr before reaching their hotel here at 1 am Friday morning.
In the women’s race, Kiplagat kicked away from Ethiopia’s Dire Tune in the final 800 metres to capture her second global title in 1:08:24, adding to her triumph at the 2009 World Cross Country Championships.
“It was not easy with strong competition,” said Kiplagat. Her debut over the 21km distance came just over a month ago in Lille, France. There she clocked an impressive 1:07:40 but time mattered little for her in Nanning.
“The climate was not easy, so I wasn’t worried about the time,” she added, noting in particular the 69 percent humidity at the start which dropped just a bit to 65 percent at the finish. Kiplagat’s victory was the second straight individual title for Kenya after Mary Keitany in Birmingham last year.