World marathon champion, Luke Kibet, threw down the gauntlet and Joseph Birech picked it up as they battled in the 10,000m race at the Kenya Prisons track and field championships at the Nyayo National Stadium on Friday.
Birech, a fifth finisher at the All Africa Games in 10,000m in Algiers, bravely hang on in the final 200m, but was edged out by the experienced Kibet by the thinnest of margins as he dipped earlier to clock 28:52.8. Organisers, who were using the electronic timer, gave Birech the time of 28:53.0 while Daniel Too was third in 28:59.6.
It was the first race for Kibet, a flop at the London marathon, and he took it with each stride to prove, he is still got the energy to challenge for major titles.
Kibet, who was dropped from the Kenya team that will compete at the World Championship in Berlin in August, said he was dismayed when his name was not among the automatic five who will be running at the World championship.
“But I have now recovered from the shock. I would have liked to run in Berlin, but again in Osaka I was a reserve athlete and was only called in at the last minute. It is 50-50 chance but I want to have my plans set as I do not expect anyone to get injured.
Was a slow race
“I had a back problem and that is what hindered me from doing well in London. I incurred the injury while running in Lagos in February. I went to Germany and was treated well and I only started training 10 days ago. This is my first race,” said Kibet.
But if the world champion expected an easy race on his return, he was wrong. Birech, equalled him in every stride as the two runners took it upon themselves in the final 200m.
Having run behind the pack leader Too, Birech and Kibet took over the initiative with about 300m to go and sprinted the remaining distance in about 55 seconds. “The race was slow because of the high temperatures.
The challenge was also low, but when it was apparent, that it was me and Kibet, I did my best,” Birech said. Birech, a fifth finisher at the Berlin half marathon 1:00:13, said he will seek a ticket to return to the German capital.
Victor Kigen a guest runner was fourth in 29:09.8 beating Cleophas Rop of Nairobi to fifth slot in 29:24.0 while Henry Maiyo from Rift Valley was sixth after 29:34.2.
In the sprints, Florence Wasike, the 400m hurdler, was seeking to improve on her 56.86 second time and run within the required 55.50 time, but her hopes hit the wall as she registered a slow time of 60.5 in winning the race.
She beat Dorothy Cherutich and Juliet Nyakerario, both being guest runners to second slot in 67.9 and 71.3 respectively. Christine Koima of Nairobi was fourth in 74.4.
Vincent Kosgei of Nyanza won the men 400m hurdle race in 53.9 ahead of Denis Kemei 56.1 and Benjamin Kimaiyo 56.4. Isaac Kiprotich 57.0 was fourth while Shakameta Dibaba was fifth in 58.5.