Francis Kiprop of Kenya and Wei Xiaojie cruised to comfortable victories at the 2011 Beijing International Marathon on Sunday (16).
With clear skies and sunshine, the weather was ideal this IAAF Gold Label Road Race with the temperature just under 20 degrees Celsius in the Chinese capital. The race itself was an unusual one as both the men’s and women’s winners made their move for the win early and kept their lead easily. On the men’s side 29-year-old Kiprop scored his first big win in a season’s best time of 2:09:00 and despite missing all top Chinese in the women’s race, home athlete Wei Xiaojie took a surprise title in 2:28:05.
Kiprop breaks away at 32K - Men’s race
The men’s race started with a big lead pack reaching 10 km in 30:40. The early leader was South African Steven Mokoka, who lead the pack of 15 runners to 15 km in 45:47. Mokoka, who placed 13th in Daegu in the 10,000m, looked extremely good at this stage and was dictating the pace for most of the time. Quickly after this, at 16.7km, a group of seven runners broke away. The seven consisted of six Africans and a surprise name, Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, the national holder of Mongolia with 2:11:35 in London this season. Just a bit more than a kilometre later (18.1 km) two athletes, including Bat-Ochir, were dropped leaving just five at the front: Mokoka, Kenyans Anthony Wambugu, Benson Barus and Kiprop and Ethiopian Raji Assefa.
Mokoka lead the five runners through the half in 1:04:00 and while the runners were passing the 21st Universiade Village (22.5 km) it seemed like Assefa was having trouble with the faster pace. The Ethiopian got back to the group a moment later, but after 24 km on Xueyuan Road Mokoka and Barus left the others behind. Wanbugu was the first to drop back with Assefa in fourth and Kiprop in third. But Kiprop was able to keep close to the duo and just a kilometre later with Mokoka leading in 1:15:37 at 25 km Barus dropped off the pace from the second place with Kiprop back in the lead with Mokoka.
Barus and Kiprop clocked 1:24:38 for 28 km and 1:30:42 for 30 km outside the National Tennis Stadium with Wanbugu in third, Assefa in fourth and Kenyan Peter Kamais now in fifth place. Kiprop made his final move at 32.4 km point and it worked immediately. Barus quickly dropped back and although he was able to maintain visual contact with Kiprop for a while it was clear he had no chance of keeping up with the leader. Kiprop, wearing a bright green vest and shoes, moved to the Olympic Stadium area to reach 35 km in 1:45:51 and through the Olympic Forest Park and back to the finish area outside the stadium to clock 2:09:00, a season’s best. This was Kiprop’s first Marathon win during a career which saw his first completed marathon in 2004. Kiprop also now has run under 2:10 for five successive seasons.
The 2009 winner here, Kenyan Samuel Muturi, completed a great second half comeback to finish second in a season’s best 2:09:43 despite being well behind the leaders for most of the race. This was Muturi’s third straight race in Beijing and the first sub-2:10 since he won here clocking 2:08:20 two years ago. All of his three sub-2:10 marathons have been run in China. Benson Barus faded back to third place in 2:10:15.
Wei Xiaojie: the next Chinese star? - Women’s race
In the women’s race the lead pack was significantly smaller than the men’s from the start. The leading women reached 10km lead by Mongolian record holder (2:39:50 in 2011) Luvsanlkhundeg Otgonbayar in 34:31. At 15 km Chinese Yue Chao had taken the lead running her second Marathon in just seven days. The 20-year-old placed seventh in Chicago clocking 2:32:57 last Sunday. Ethiopian Yeshi Esayias was in second place at this stage followed by fellow countrywoman Meseret Legesse, Kenyan double World champion Catherine Ndereba and another Chinese, Wei Xiaojie.
Yue reached the midway point in in 1:13:41 and by the 23 km point Legesse was in the lead with Yue close behind. The five women were still close together, but what happened after 25 km was a total surprise. Running in a pink top and wearing a sunshade Wei Xiaojie came from nowhere leaving others behind quickly. The new Chinese name passed 30 km in the Olympic Forest Park in 1:44:41 with the others already totally out of sight. She passed the finish line in a 2:28:05 for a huge win before Yeshi Esayias, who hung on to the second place in 2:29:29. Catherine Ndereba was third in 2:30:14 completing her first Marathon since November 2009 and Jin Lingling of China fourth in 2:30:27.
Immediately after the race it was unclear who Wei Xiaojie was, but she cleared the matter in a post-race interview. She has been running under the name “Wei Jie” in 2008-2011 and won the Zhengzhou International Marathon this past March in a personal best 2:26:41. But during this season there has been another athlete from Jiangsu Province with exactly the same name Wei Jie and therefore the Beijing winner has decided than she will be known as “Wei Xiaojie” from now on to avoid confusion. She is 22 years old and a student at the Dalian Institute of Arts.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
1. Francis Kiprop, Kenya 2:09:00
2. Samuel Muturi, Kenya 2:09:43
3. Benson Barus, Kenya 2:10:15
4. Raji Assefa, Ethiopia 2:12:12
5. Peter Kamais, Kenya 2:12:58
6. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, Mongolia 2:14:39
7. Haron Toroitich, Kenya 2:14:55
8. Fredrick Cherono, Kenya 2:15:42
9. Yan Longfei, China 2:15:45
1. Wei Xiaojie, China 2:28:05
2. Yeshi Esayias, Ethiopia 2:29:29
3. Catherine Ndereba, Kenya 2:30:14
4. Jin Lingling, China 2:30:27