Nicholas Kemboi and Caroline Rotich celebrated their biggest career wins at the 19th edition of the Volkswagen Prague Marathon, crossing the line at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in 2:08:51 and 2:27:00 on Sunday (12).
Kemboi, born in Kenya but now representing Qatar and the 2009 Asian Championships 10000m silver medallist, was not among the favourites before the start but was with the leaders almost all the time from 16km.
Along with the Kenyan pair of the pacemaker Silas Ngetich and Julius Arile, as well as Ethiopia’s Girmay Birhanu, Kemboi helped increase the pace at that point and broke up the big leading group.
Ngetich soon dropped out the leading trio passed the half way mark in 1:03:21. However, the uneven pace and warm weather, with the temperatures well over 30 degrees Celsius combined to thwart any chance of really fast times or course records.
Soon after the 30km mark, which had been reached in 1:30:36, Kemboi briefly lost contact with his two rivals but quickly managed to recover before turning on the heat himself.
“When I was running, I came across a raised cobblestone. After that, I felt a little bit of fatigue in the left leg, something like a slight muscle pull. That is why I fell behind. After about a kilometre, this feeling went away and that is why I closed the gap,” explained the 29-year-old Kemboi, after finishing just his third marathon after second place in Valencia two years ago in 2:08:01 and a fifth in Istanbul last year in a modest 2:20:40.
At 34km, Birhanu was dropped, and two kilometres later Arile was beaten as well, the latter eventually fading badly to finish seventh.
Kemboi quickly opened up a 10-second gap over the flagging Arile and had a 28 second advantages by 40km.
“Running alone in front I looked back at 38km, and knew that I would win,” added Kemboi, who hopes that his next Marathon will be at the World Championships in Moscow this August.
Kemboi now a confirmed road runner
He ran 26:30.03 for the 10,000 m in Brussels back in 2003 as a 19-year-old and is still the fourth fastest 10000m runner ever. “But I now concentrate on road running,” he confirmed.
Birhanu recovered well to take second place in 2:09:30. For the Ethiopian it was a remarkable second marathon within two months, and his second runner-up position as well after he ran a personal best of 2:08:11 in Rome on 17 March.
Kenya’s Patrick Terer finished third in 2:10:10 after a Marathon of a different kind in the last week.
Terer was originally one of the favourites for the Hanover Marathon last Sunday but his Schengen visa was made invalid in Nairobi when he was about to fly to Hanover via Amsterdam.
However, the Prague Marathon’s elite race coordinator Jana Moberly managed to get him a new visa for the Czech Republic but realised, just before Terer travelled, that the start date of the visa was wrong. After more urgent contact with the Czech embassy in Nairobi it was finally assured that Terer could fly to Prague.
It was hoped that the women would run at a pace that could lead to Lydia Cheromei’s 2011 course record of 2:22:34 being challenged, but like in the men’s race, the warm weather meant that threat never materialised.
The Kenyan trio of Caroline Rotich, Cheromei and Philes Ongori passed the half way mark in 1:13:03. Soon afterwards, Rotich broke away and established a substantial lead before crossing the line in 2:27:00.
By contrast Cheromei, who had a hip problem in the build-up to Prague but said on Friday she was OK to run, dropped back and she finished a disappointing sixth in 2:34:26.
Ethiopia’s Ehitu Kiros first overtook Ongori at 25km but it was then Ongori who came back to her and finally took second place with 2:28:53. Kiros followed in third with 2:30:02.
“This win gives me a good platform for my future marathon career. Every marathon is different. In Prague I really enjoyed the atmosphere and I would like to come back next year,” said Rotich, who will celebrate her 29th birthday on Monday and who had won the New York Half Marathon in March with an impressive 1:09:09 in difficult conditions.
Jörg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF