Irreplaceable Kenyan runners had no equal in big city marathons

Friday December 22 2017

Kenya's Mary Keitany celebrates after winning the women's elite race at the London marathon on April 23, 2017 in London. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS |

Kenya's Mary Keitany celebrates after winning the women's elite race at the London marathon on April 23, 2017 in London. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS |  AFP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Kenyan athletes might have dominated in the World Marathon Majors but its Mary Keitany’s performance at the London Marathon on April 23 that stood out.

Keitany won her third London Marathon crown, setting a new world record (women only) at 2:17:01, shaving of Paula Radcliffe’s record by 41 seconds, which she set at the 2005 London.

Kenya's Mary Keitany wins the women's elite race at the London marathon on April 23, 2017 in London.  PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP

Kenya's Mary Keitany wins the women's elite race at the London marathon on April 23, 2017 in London. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP

Keitany gave the call to national duty at the World Championships a miss, opting to go for her fourth consecutive New York City Marathon title on November 5. 

She, however, fail to successfully defend her title finishing second in 2:17:01, to Shalane Flanagan (2:26:53) from the USA.

The result saw Keitany win her third women’s Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) Award.

A new star was born when Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru made it yet another double for Kenya, following Keitany’s exploits with victory in the men’s race in 2:05:49, beating Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele to second place.

Kenya's Daniel Wanjiru wins the Men's elite race at the London marathon on April 23, 2017 in London. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP

Kenya's Daniel Wanjiru wins the Men's elite race at the London marathon on April 23, 2017 in London. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP

World Half Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who is also the World Cross Country king, asserted himself as a master of all surface to win his maiden marathon at New York City in 2:10:53 seconds.

Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya reacts after crossing the finish line to win the Men's Division during the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon in New York on November 5, 2017. PHOTO | TIMOTHY A. CLARY |

Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya reacts after crossing the finish line to win the Men's Division during the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon in New York on November 5, 2017. PHOTO | TIMOTHY A. CLARY |AFP

Away from Keitany’s exploits in London, there was another interesting attempt by Olympic Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge to run a first sub-two-hour assisted marathon, in the Nike Breaking2 project on the Monza Formula 1 on May 6. 

Kipchoge may have failed in his bid, finishing the attempt in 2:00:25, but the race caught the imagination of the world what with the possibility of the full marathon being covered in less than two hours soon.

Kipchoge would later claim his eighth marathon victory from his nine appearances when he won Berlin Marathon on September 24 in a world-leading time of 2:03:32, failing to break the World Record of 2:02:57 held by Dennis Kimetto.

Eliud Kipchoge

Winner Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya celebrates on the podium after the Berlin Marathon on September 24, 2017 in Berlin. PHOTO | MICHELE TANTUSSI | AFP

Kenyan Gladys Cherono reacts after crossing the finish line and winning in the women's category at the Berlin Marathon on September 24, 2017 in Berlin. PHOTO | MICHELE TANTUSSI |

Kenyan Gladys Cherono reacts after crossing the finish line and winning in the women's category at the Berlin Marathon on September 24, 2017 in Berlin. PHOTO | MICHELE TANTUSSI |AFP

It was Kipchoge second win in Berlin after 2015. The performance saw Kipchoge win men’s Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) Award for the third consecutive year.

Gladys Cherono returned from injury to reclaim the Berlin Marathon women’s title in 2:20:23, her second victory in the city after 2015.

Back on February 26, former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang and little known Sarah Chepchirchir swept to emphatic course record breaking victories at Tokyo Marathon.

Kipsang, who was targeting to reclaim his world record, found himself running the last 7km alone after breaking away from the 2014 winner Dickson Chumba to triumph in 2:03:58.

Chepchirchir won the women’s race also in the fastest time on Japanese soil of 2:19:47.

Geoffrey Kirui and two times former World marathon champion Edna Kiplagat led yet another Kenyan sweep in just a week when they won men and women’s races at the 121st edition of Boston Marathon on April 17.

Edna Kiplagat of Kenya crosses the line to win the women's race in the 2014 London Marathon on The Mall in central London on April 13, 2014.  The two times former World marathon champion is this year’s Boston Marathon women’s champion. FILE PHOTO | LEON NEAL | AFP

Edna Kiplagat of Kenya crosses the line to win the women's race in the 2014 London Marathon on The Mall in central London on April 13, 2014. The two times former World marathon champion is this year’s Boston Marathon women’s champion. FILE PHOTO | LEON NEAL | AFP

Kirui, the 2014 World Junior 10,000m champion claimed his first major title when he broke away from Olympic marathon bronze medallist American Galen Rupp with less than five kilometres to go to triumph in 2:09:37.

Kirui completed a Kenyan sweep just after Kiplagat, the 2011 and 2013 World marathon champion, won the women’s race in 2:21:53, beating Kenya-born Rose Chelimo from Bahrain to second in 2:22:51.

Kirui went on to win the world title four months later in London where Chelimo took revenge against Kiplagat to win the women’s race.

Of the big city races, it’s only in Chicago Marathon where Kenyans failed to win with defending champion Abel Kirui settling for second place, losing to American Gulen Rupp as Birgid Kosgey also came second behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba.

Thought not part of the WMM, Kenyans performed well in other marathon races like Frankfurt and Paris.

Olympic 5,000m champion Vivian “Pocket Rocket” Cheruiyot announced her entry into marathon’s big league with an emphatic maiden victory at Mainova Frankfurt Marathon on October 29 in  2:23:35.

TOPSHOT - Kenya's Prurity Rionoripo crosses the finish line to win the 41st Paris Marathon in Paris on April 9, 2017.  PHOTO | ERIC FEFERBERG |

TOPSHOT - Kenya's Prurity Rionoripo crosses the finish line to win the 41st Paris Marathon in Paris on April 9, 2017. PHOTO | ERIC FEFERBERG |AFP

Paris Marathon on April 9 turned into a good love story when Kenyan couple Paul Lonyangata and Purity Rionoripo stormed to victories. Lonyangata recorded his biggest career success when he claimed the men’s race in 2:06:10 while Rionoripo swept to victory in the women’s race in a new course record time of 2:20:55.

Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei was another fairy-tale story in half marathon and road races.

The 23-year-old needed only six months and three weeks to obliterate her own world half marathon record, coasting to victory at Valencia Trinidad Alfonso in 1 hour, 04 minutes and 51 seconds on October 22.

Jepkosgei had on April 1 set a new world half marathon record of 1:04:52.