World Champion Paul Kosgei won the inaugural MTN Lagos International Half-Marathon in Nigeria yesterday, in a tight finish with his Kenyan colleague John Korir.
Despite the relatively early start of 8.30am, the temperatures were already into the thirties with high humidity, when Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo started the impressive field of 16,000 on its way from downtown Lagos, along Bar Beach and across the bridges which link Victoria and Lagos Islands, to the finish in the National Stadium.
Kosgei and Korir were always at the head of the field, challenged by Tanzania's Fabian Joseph and George Mofokeng of South Africa. That quartet broke away at 15 kilometres, with Mofokeng staying in contention until a kilometre from the stadium. The Kenyans' relentless pace disposed of Joseph in the stadium, and Kosgei eventually beat Korir by 20 metres.
"It was a fast and very hard race," said Kosgei, adding that his winning time of 63:50 would have been closer to the hour in better conditions. Nevertheless, he won $15,000 (half of the total prize purse) for his exertions.
With such a large field, and elite athletes from nine African countries, including the powerhouses of distance, Kenya and Ethiopia, the event was a resounding success for the organisers. Sponsor MTN, a South African mobile phone company has signed a deal for five years, and a country best known for its sprinters now has a foothold on the distance running ladder.
To give further impetus, former steeplechase World record holder and champion, Moses Kiptanui gave clinics for schoolchildren and local coaches, and the race was shown live on both national and commercial television.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1 Paul Kosgei Ken 63.50
2 John Korir Ken 63.53
3 Faqbian Joseph Tan 64.00
4 George Mofokeng RSA 64.09
5 Evans Rutto Ken 66.19
6 Naftal Dakho Tan 66.39
7 Tesfaye Girma Eth 66.56
8 Ben Maiyo Ken 67.19