Victor Kigen of Kenya won the Belgrade Banca Intesa Marathon on his debut on Saturday morning, just as his mentor Paul Tergat suggested he would.
Bright sunshine and temperatures rising to 20C (68F) persuaded the leaders to race conservatively, and it wasn’t until the last 10 kilometres that Kigen’s surge broke up the pack of a dozen men, which included several contestants from the concurrent World Military Marathon Championships.
But Kigen had looked in control all the way, and the military men made no impression on him, as the 25-year-old surged away to victory in two hours, 13 minutes, 28 seconds (2.13.28), taking close to a minute out of his pursuers over the last five kilometres.
Kigen was followed home by two colleagues, Sylvester Cheboi in 2.14.25, who just got the better of Julius Korir in 2.14.28. Ahmed Moustafa (originally Patrick Cheboto of Uganda) running for Qatar was fourth in 2.16.22, thus winning the military title, and leading his colleagues to the team prize.
The influence of Tergat on the marathon, like that of his erstwhile rival, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia continues to be felt. The leading distance runners on the track throughout the 1990s, first Tergat then Gebrselassie took the marathon World record into another dimension.
But whereas Geb is still running at the highest level, Tergat has dropped down a notch, but is contributing to the development of new Kenyan marathoners. One of his charges, Paul Lekuraa broke the Athens Marathon course record last November. And now Kigen, who comes from the same Baringo District as his mentor, has blossomed after five months under Tergat’s wing in the camp at Ngong outside Nairobi.
“Paul prepared me well, so this isn’t a big surprise, to win,” said Kigen. “I felt comfortable, and when I left the others at 30 kilometres, I thought they would not be able to come back to me, especially in these warm conditions. But I was still not sure to win until I hit the tape.”
Anne Kosgei, also of Kenya won the women’s race, in 2.34.51. It was her second victory in five marathon outings. But this time the Army was hot on her heels, as Rasa Drazdauskaite of Lithuania was only eight seconds behind, to win the military title. The US military successfully defended the women’s team title.
Local hero, Olivera Jevtic won the half-marathon for the sixth time, in 1:12:20. And pronounced herself reasssured after two months of injury that she could successfully compete in the Mediterannean Games, here in Belgrade in June, and then the IAAF World Championships in Berlin in August.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF
1. Victor KIGEN, KEN 2.13.28
2. Sylvester CHEBII, KEN 2.14.25
3. Julius KORIR, KEN 2.14.28
4. Mousafa AHMED*, QAT 2.16.22
5. Zaid LAROUSSI, MOR 2.16.29
6. Victor MANGUSHO, KEN 2.16.49
7. Edwin KIPCHOM, KEN 2.17.36
8. Peter KWALIA, KEN 2.18.26
9. Kaz KACZMAREK, POL 2.19.11
10. Aman MAJID, QAT 2.20.13
1. Anne KOSGEI, KEN 2.34.51
2. Rasa DRAZDAUSKAITE*, LIT 2.34.59
3. Maria RUIZ, ESP 2.49.32
4. Jaymee MARTY, USA 2.51.12
5. Maria Rosa TERESI, ESP 2.51.32
* World Military champion