Jackson Kirwa Kiprono, 22, from Kenya made a winning debut over the marathon distance, after a solid career in many half marathons and road races, when claiming victory in the 25th edition of the Florence Marathon in 2:12:37 on a cold, rainy day (30).
The tough course with a lot of bends, was made very slippery especially on the section of cobblestones following a heavy downpour in the first part of the race.
Giovanna Volpato from Italy took the win in the women’s race in her comback race after undergoing surgery on her Achilles tendon following the World Championships in Osaka 2007.
Pacemakers John Kanyiri and Elijah Nyabuti accomplished their task by leading the first pack of runners until the halfway mark which they passed in 1:05:37. Migidio Bourifa, the fastest italian marathon runner in 2008, was the only European in the 10-men group. There were also eight Kenyans, the two pacers plus John Birgen, Paul Ngeny, Jackson Kirwa Kiprono, Stephen Kibiwott, Nicodemus Biwott) and the Ethiopian Fekene Sefu.
After the pacemakers dropped-out, former Milan Marathon winner John Birgen went to the front with Kibiwott (59:44 PB half marathon) the two-time Turin Marathon winner (2006 and 2008), Kirwa, and last year’s Florence Marathon winner Ngeny. Also following were Biwott, Bourifa and Sefu. This pack went through the 25km mark in 1:18:25.
Bourifa went to the front briefly at 33km, with Kirwa biding his time before launched his first attack at 36km after going through 35km in 1:50:12.
But at 38km Birgen had caught up with Kirwa, and the race developed into an exciting neck and neck battle in the final four kilometres, with Ngeny dropped by 30 seconds.
Birgen tried to breakaway but Kirwa responded, and in the final section of the race in the heart of the Tuscan city Kirwa managed to hold off Birgen in the final 400m sprint which crossed the Piazza Santa Croce to the finish line. He won in 2:12:37, one second faster than Birgen.
Nearly a minute behind, Ngeny finished third in 2:13:36.
“The race was ok apart from the weather. It was very cold. The second pacemaker was too slow but the Florence course was very nice”, said Kirwa The young Kenyan is trained by Italian coach Gabriele Nicola from Turin.
Italian top runners Giovanna Volpato and Marcella Mancini and Ethiopian Elfneshe Melaku went to the front at 15km (54:43). Briton Alice Braham followed four seconds behind.
The same leading trio passed the halfway mark in 1:16:30, then with a gap of seven seconds over Braham. Volpato finally broke away at 30km, quickly dropping Mancini and Elfneshe by 20 seconds.
The leader, who ran her marathon personal best of 2:28:59 in Treviso in 2006, increased her gap over Braham who overtook a fading Marcella Mancini after the 30km. Volpato had a margin of 51 seconds at 40 km (2:26:09).
The line was crossed by Volpato in 2:34:14, with Braham finishing second in 2:35:24, so improving her PB by five minutes. Mancini was third, 2:36:30.
“The final time was not important for me today. What mattered most was to return to competitions after the injury. The race was very tough. My legs were freezing at the start,” said Volpato.
Volpato, finished eighth at the European Championships in Gothenburg in 2006 contributing to the Italian win of the European Cup, and ran her last marathon in Osaka 2007 where she sustained a serious Achilles tendon injury. She returned this year to competitions running some club track races for her local team Assindustria Sport Padova. Volpato is coached by Mario Del Giudice who also trained Italian sprint record holder Manuela Levorato.
About 9000 runners took part in the 25th anniversary race of the Florence Marathon which attrected many supportive fans along the course despite the wet weather.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 Jackson Kirwa Kiprono (Kenya) 2:12:37
2 John Birgen (Kenya) 2:12:38
3 Paul Ngeny Kipkemboi (Kenya) 2:13:36
4 Migidio Bourifa (Italy) 2:13:44
5 Stephen Kibiwott (Kenya) 2:15:24
1 Giovanna Volpato (Italy) 2:34:14
2 Alice Braham (Great Britain) 2:35:24
3 Marcella Mancini (Italy) 2:36:30