Cross country races are usually not platforms from which to make bold announcements about breaking World records, well that is unless you are Silas Kiplagat.
A new year, same old cocky Kiplagat, the fastest 1500m runner in the world last year and Commonwealth champion at the distance. With his indoor racing debut due in a week’s time, Kiplagat crowned his victory in the men’s long race at today’s Kenya Prisons Services Cross Country Championships (29) by stating he would attack Hicham El Guerrouj’s long standing World Indoor record of 3:31.18 set in Stuttgart in 1997.
And he was not done. The 21-year-old then said the retired Moroccan 2004 double Olympic champion’s 3:26.00 outdoor record was also in his sights!
In the women’s 8km race at the Prisons Services Cross Country Championships, Pauline Wangui, third last year, overcame the charging triple threat mounted by Kenya Prisons’ famous marathoners Catherine Ndereba, Salina Kosgei and Susan Chepkemei to bag the win.
Compared to their Kenya Police and Armed Forces rivals, it is easy to hand out the favourite tags at Kenya Prisons Services events. Silas Kiplagat, a 3:29.27 1500m runner was the obvious headline act.
Kiplagat, who was second here last year, was clearly relishing his main star status. He hit the front at the bell and remained stuck in the front line or thereabouts throughout. After 4km, only John Mwangangi last year’s victor and Fredrick Musyoki, third in 2010, held a stake for the win.
At 8km, the sustained hard running by Kiplagat and Mwangangi forced Musyoki to retreat to a comfortable third. Some 300m into the bell, Mwangangi eased ahead of Kiplagat and shifted the gears in an effort to get away from his rival.
However, Kiplagat responded, pulled alongside, and the sprint finish was on. The pair approached the final bend less than a pace apart and with 200m to the finish. The taller 1500m runner used his stride advantage to full effect, breasting the tape in 34:46.2 to reverse last year’s finishing order. Mwangangi came home in 34:48.3 while Musyoki upheld his 2010 placing in 35:05.8.
“Today, I was testing the nuts and bolts in me to find out which ones I need to tighten,” Kiplagat began his post race remarks. “This year, I want to take away what El Guerrouj has held for more than 13 years. Yes, I will go for both his world records this season, starting with the indoor meets at Dusseldorf or Stuttgart.”
He added: “My coach and I believe this is the right time. I will go to Manchester next weekend to test myself on the indoor circuit since I have never run there. Once I get that, I believe I’m in the right shape to go for the record.”
“If that happens, I shall return to strategise with my coach on how to break the outdoor record. I fear no one or any challenge and it can happen,” asserted the athlete who ran the quickest 1500m in three years on his European circuit debut at the Paris Diamond League meet.
“The World title is in my plans too but my burning desire is to break the records.”
Kiplagat is coached by three-time World Steeplechase champion, Moses Kiptanui.
Since bursting to the notice of the Prisons Services three seasons ago, Pauline Wangui has strived to live up to the hype and to take over the mantle from decorated Prisons stalwarts, Catherine Ndereba, Salina Kosgei, Susan Chepkemei and Edith Masai.
Twice World Marathon champion, Ndereba, 2009 Boston Champion and thrice World Half Marathon silver medallist Chepkemei lined-up at the start to loan some credibility to the women 8km race whose standards have plummeted in recent years due to a lack of fresh recruits. Masai, the three-time short course World Cross champion, was content to watch from the stands.
When action got underway Alice Mogire (fifth last year) took the field through halfway mark before Wangui assumed leadership, building a steady gap after the bell to complete the course in 27:04.1. Mogire (27:15.1) was second.
Chepkemei was fourth (28:21.4) after failing to dislodge Tabitha Wambui (28:11.2) from the last podium place in the final dash for the tape. Ndereba (28:51.3) was seventh, a place above Kosgei (28:16.2).
“Emulating Ndereba, Kosgei, Chepkemei and Masai is a difficult task since they are exceptional and you could see it today. Even in their 30s, they are capable of running well,” the winner said. “My main task is to make the Kenyan team for the first time. If allowed to train with my friends at Police and Armed Forces, I’m confident I can have a good chance. We do not have quality runners here at Prisons to train with,” she reflected.
Ndereba and Kosgei eyeing spring glory and Daegu
Joking with her teenage daughter, Wairimu who is not keen to follow her mother’s footsteps, opting instead to go for aviation, the Paris and Osaka World champion, Ndereba said, “Despite the fact that I offered to let younger runners go for the World title, Athletics Kenya have refused, saying ‘Catherine we need you in Daegu’. If I’m fit, I will compete there.”
“For now, I’m preparing for a spring marathon. Nothing definite has been worked out by my manager and race organisers so my work is to be ready when called upon to compete. The injuries that I suffered in the last two seasons are gone and today, I felt my body responding great. If only they would have added a few more kilometres,” added the twice Olympic marathon silver medallist and former record holder.
“My first priority is to reclaim my Boston title and then go for World Championships if selected. If I do well in Boston which is one of the races to be used to select the team for Daegu, I have a chance of being the first Kenyan female World Marathon Majors winner,” disclosed Kosgei, who is tied for third in the 2010/2011 running of that competition.
Administration Police and Provincials
Next Saturday (5 February) sees the last disciplined force, Administration Police (AP), hold their cross championships alongside provinces countrywide. World Marathon titleholder, Abel Kirui, who ruled out a title defence in favour of chasing the 2:03.59 World record is the top draw.
Mutwiri Mutuota (The Standard) for IAAF
1 Silas Kiplagat 34:46.2
2 John Mwangangi 34:48.3
3 Fredrick Musyoki 35:05.8
4 Bernard Rotich 35:14.2
5 Zablon Rotich 35:24.1
6 Joseph Birech 35:30.1
7 Timothy Kiptoo 35:35.2
8 Charles Cheruiyot 35:39.0
1 Pauline Wambui 27:04.1
2 Alice Mogire 27:15.1
3 Tabitha Wambui 28:11.2
4 Susan Chepkemei 28:21.4
5 Sharon Kipsang 28:31.3
6 Ruth Kutol 28:45.4
7 Catherine Ndereba 28:51.3
8 Salina Kosgei 28:16.2