Timbilil, Kipsang fly in the Mara

Saturday November 20 2010

By CHRIS MUSUMBA [email protected]

Just a month after clinching the Amsterdam Marathon title, Alice Timbilil on Saturday won the Kenya Airways Maasai Mara Marathon staged in the Olchorro Oiroruwa Conservancy.

Geoffrey Kipsang won the men’s 21km race and Susan Kiplagat and Leonard ole Kosiele triumphed the 5km road races.

The race was marking its second edition and is sponsored by ‘The Pride of Africa’ to the tune of Sh6 million.

More than 600 athletes endured the strong winds and temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius in the Masai Mara National Park but had a rare opportunity of running alongside wild animals.

“I was frightened and thought they may force us to stopsaid Timbilil.

“The wildebeests were very close. The zebras ran aimlessly across the route and the antelopes were grazing by and took off in different direction as we approached.

“It was fantastic and frightening. What if they came my way?”

With only a month to recover from her triumphant exploits in the Netherlands, Timbilil remained ahead of the pack after just 5km.

“I knew I am in great shape and wanted to test my body after running in Amsterdam,” Timbilil added.

She stopped the clock at 1 hour 8 minutes 56 seconds, ahead of Diana Chekemoi (1:10.50), winner of Great Island race in Kericho in August.

Georgina Rono (1:11.02) was third as Rael Kihara, Elizabeth Rumogoi and Wilfridah Kwamboka followed.

Unique but challenging

Kipsang, 20, beat Enock Mitei and Benson Nakeri’s challenge.

He then broke free from the leading pack of more than 16 runners after 10km with Mitei, Henry Chirchir, Benjamin Barchoncho, Nakeri and Alfred Sang in tow.

The victor then held on gallantly to claim the Sh250,000 prize in 1:03.40, edging out Mitei (1:03.58), who was making a comeback after four years, to second. Nakeri came third in 1:04.06.

“I had never run in a conservancy like this. It is unique but the challenge is getting here, the rocky course and the risk of facing a stray buffalo or lion,” said Kipsang.

Focus on cross country team

“I want to focus on cross country and get into the national team.”

At 34, Mitei staked his claim against younger opponents and pocketed Sh100,000.

In the 5km corporate race, Susan Kiplagat won the women’s race in 14:40 ahead of Viola Kimeto (14:48) and Leah Cherotich (14:51) as Leonard ole Kosiele (14:00.13) beat off a late challenge from Bernard Kiplagat (14:01.13) and Commonwealth Youth Games 1,500m bronze medalist Raphael ole Kei (14:01:13).