After a disastrous outing at last year’s Beijing Olympics, world marathon champion Luke Kibet proved yet again that he is cruising towards his best form ever when he won the men’s 12-kilometre race at the Kenya Prisons National Cross Country Championships in Ruiru on Saturday.
And guest runner Eunice Chepkurui, seeking to make an impact and possibly earn recruitment into the Prisons force, stole the women’s eight-kilometre title at the championships held at the Prisons Staff Training College.
The meet also saw twice New York Marathon runner-up, Susan Chepkemei, make a comeback after one year out following a ban for using Salbutamol, a banned substance that was in her asthma medication.
In Saturday’s race, Kibet’s third since he pulled out of the Beijing Olympics marathon race last August at the halfway stage, was what the Prisons corporal needed to inject more confidence ahead of an appearance at the London Marathon in April.
“I’m in good form and all I wanted here was to gauge my speed. I’m happy with the performance and will run one more race before going to the London marathon,” he said.
Kibet won the Singapore Marathon last December in a new course record time of two hours and 13 minutes.
Running for the Western Kenya team on Saturday, Kibet’s winning time was 37 minutes, 59.1 seconds, about 12 seconds faster than second placed John Mwangangi of the Prisons Staff Training College.
In the women’s race, Chepkurui floored a classy field that also had seasoned runners Margaret Okayo, Catherine Ndereba, Catherine Kirui, Chepkemei, Salina Kosgei and three times short course world cross country champion, Edith Masai.
Ndereba was seventh (30:09.2), Okayo and Masai did not finish the race while Kirui (32:27.8) and Susan Chepkemei (33:45.6) finished 19th and 26th.
The 24-year-old Chepkurui pursued second-placed Pauline Wangui before taking over at the six-kilometre mark and holding on to the finish.
“I’ve only represented this country twice abroad. Now I want a ticket to go to Amman (world championships) and I believe I will be able to withstand the pressure at the trials,” she said.