“Mary Keitany ‘pushed’ me to go for the World Half Marathon title when I sought her blessing prior to the race in Barcelona two weeks ago,” newly crowned champion Florence Kiplagat said during her home coming party in Iten on Wednesday.
Kiplagat, who beat a large field at the Barcelona eDreams Mitja Half Marathon on February 16 to take the title from Keitany said: “I sought ‘permission’ from the former record holder Mary Keitany before I attacked the record,” Kiplagat said.
“I called and told her that I wanted to try and attack her record in the 21km race. She told me to go for it, and with her blessing, I was more confident to win,” said Kiplagat who is also the 2010 IAAF world Half Marathon.
Keitany, who holds the women’s national marathon record of 2.18.37 hours, said she was happy her neighbour Kiplagat won the title.
“She lives about a kilometre from my house and I feel quite happy that my little efforts had played a role in making of a new record holder,” Keitany said during the colourful ceremony.
Kiplagat, 26, had upstaged a quality field of runners to win 1.05.12 (65.12 minutes), which is 38 seconds lower than Keitany’s 1.05.50 record posted in RAK Half marathon in 2011.
Locals turnout out in their numbers to celebrate Kiplagat’s success. The last time people of Iten had such celebrations was last November when world marathon holder Wilson Kipsang won the Berlin Marathon.
Kiplagat was escorted by a motorcade that snaked its way through Eldoret town towards Elgeyo Marakwet. And police were at hand ensure order in the procession.
World Marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang, 2009 World 10,000m champion Linet Masai, 2012 African Cross Country gold medallist Joyce Chepkirui were present.
Elgeyo Marakwet governor Alex Tolgos was not left behind either. He said his government will seek to support upcoming talent.