It has been the norm at the Standard Chartered Nairobi International marathon to churn out new champions every year.
But for little known David Tumo Barmasai and veteran Hellen Kirop, who claimed the Sh1.5 million prize as they triumphed over the 42km race, winning the race means more than just the money.
Run at an altitude of 5,500 feet above sea level, it is no joke to rush through the 42km in just over two hours on a bright sunny morning in temperature rising slightly above 20 degrees Celsius.
Barmasai, a 23-year-old, stun over 5,000 athletes when he clocked 2 hours 10 minutes and 31 seconds while Kirop, the Dubai marathon champion, bagged her first local marathon when she triumphed in 2:31.11 to claim the women race title that attracted over 3,500 athletes.
The results bolster the belief that out of Rift Valley, there is always something new, and faster. And we had better accept that, in road race especially in endurance terms, athletes from the region are likely to be faster than anything the rest of Kenya and the world in general is likely to produce.
It is a 100 percent success record for Barmasai, who trains at Kapkitony area in Eldoret. His first attempt at the 42km road race was in last year’s Kass Marathon where he emerged the winner. That only helped inspire him realise that he has the potential and talent to take on the world’s best.
He went home, immersed himself in training and has emerged with a reputation greatly enhanced to bag one of the world most difficult race, win the Nairobi International marathon.
However, it was not without a fight. For a country that has produced 60 of the best 100 marathon runners in the world, winning the lucrative Nairobi International marathon, is always a gamble. The battle played out well as a leading pack of about 15 athletes went past the 15km mark without anyone thinking of breaking off.
“It was hard. I saw everyone was running close and nobody new who the other was and what they could do. But I kept my own composure and new that if we stayed together for long, I had a chance of surprising them,” said Barmasai.
They pack reduced to about 10 as they went past the Zain Headquarters for the first circuit. They were timed at 1:03.22 at the half way mark. Barmasai, Philemon Gitia, Silas Sang, Daniel Kipchumba Komen, Vincent Kiplagat Sittuk all looked set to pounce. At 35km mark, Barmasai pulled away and never looked back to win the race.
Gitia will have to wait for another chance to win the race as he took second spot, the same he won in 2008, when he clocked 2:11.11 while Sittuk settled for the bronze in 2:12.09. This means that Moses Kigen’s 2:10.12 course record remains intact.
“I wanted to win, but I hit one of the barriers at start that left my knee swollen and painful. It was just by luck that I finished this race,” said Gitia.
In women race, Kirop became the second elite woman to win the race after Irene Jerotich exploits in 2006 and last year. Kirop, 25, winner of Prague marathon in May, added another feather to her illustrious cap when she won Nairobi International race. She edged out another veteran runner Leah Malot 2:33.41 and Frashiah Nyambura 2:35.09. Jerotich course record of 2:28.47 and bonus of Sh250,000 was saved.
Kirop, whose personal best time is 2:24:54, which she got in Dubai last in January, was not able to compete in Chicago because she was nursing a knee injury.
“I was to run in Chicago, but I had a knee injury and I decided to pull out. I have since recovered and tried my luck here at home. I realise that there are new stronger athletes here than abroad and you can’t know who is better than you. So All I wanted was a top ten finish and am happy to win,” she said.
The women race was not closely contested like the men’s and Kirop had opened over a kilometre gap by the 35km mark and pushed further to see her win. But it was good reward for Malot who has tried on several occasions to win something out of the Nairobi International marathon before without success.
Winners in both cadres took home Sh1.5 million with second place having Sh650,000 while second runners up bagged Sh350,000. The prizes trickle down to the tenth finisher who takes Sh10,000.
In wheel chair race Moses Odhiambo won 1:03.30 beating both John Wambua 1:04.09 and Samuel Ngige 1:06.01 while Mohammed Asia won in women clocking 1:18.42 ahead of Caroline Wanjira 1:25.33 and Eunice Adhiambo 1:25.54.
Women – Hellen Kirop 2:31.11, Leah Malot 2:33.41, Frashiah Nyambura 2:35.09, Magdaline Chemjor 2:38.19, Grace Kitonga 2:38.42, Eunice Jeptoo 2:39.01, Losiakat Chepokoro 2:42.46, Leah Kusar 2:44.10, Susan Muthoni Nyakeriga 2:46.01, Rosaline David 2:48.22.
Men – David Tumo Barmasai 2:10.31, Philemon Gitia 2:11.11, Vincent Kiplagat Sittuk 2:12.09, Simon Kiprop 2:12.15, Julius Saolei Kiprotich 2:13.08, Richard Soibei Kiprotich 2:13.14, Mathew Bungei 2:13.28, Edward Omwoyo Mbuni 2:13.28, Daniel Kipchumba Komen 2:13.38, Benedict Muli Kimondiu 2:13.59.