Johnstone Maiyo won Sunday’s Belgrade Time Force Marathon, as he had predicted two days earlier, leading a sweep of his Kenyan colleagues.
But the 22-year-old had to battle a headwind for much of the way, restricting his winning time to 2:16:23. But that was good enough for a decisive victory over colleagues Sammy Kibet, second in 2:18:15, and Paul Lopio, another four seconds back.
Unusually for a Kenyan, even one of the younger generation, Maiyo confidently predicted victory at Friday’s press conference, and said today that even the company of half a dozen colleagues with 10Km to go did not dissuade him.
“It was very windy today, that why I didn’t want to take the lead too soon, but when we got to 35k, I knew I had to go. I left the others behind about one kilometre later.”
In only his second marathon, and his first in Europe, Maiyo built up almost a minute’s margin of victory in the final six kilometres back into the city centre. By which time, the temperature, which had been around 12C at the 10am start had risen towards 20C.
Maiyo comes from Kitale in the Western Highlands, a land as fertile for distance runners as it is for crops and cattle. Eschewing the family tradition of farming, Maiyo took up running seriously five years ago, graduating to marathons earlier this year with a run in the Kilimanjaro marathon, returning a similar time at over 2000 metres altitude.
His sights are set a little higher now. “We will try and get him in the New York Marathon in November,” said his manager.
Another Kenyan Hellen Mugo had an even easier victory in the women’s race, clocking 2:41:19, well ahead of Volha Rezkaya of Belarus, second in 2:53:57, and Neza Mravje of Slovenia, third in 2:59:30.
Pat Butcher (organizers) for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1. Johnstone MAIYO, KEN 2.16.23
2. Sammy KIBET, KEN 2.18.15
3. Paul LOPIO, KEN 2.18.19
4. Sammy ROTICH, KEN 2.19.29
5. Victor KIMELI, KEN 2.20.25
6. Paul KIPTANUI, KEN 2.23.20
1. Hellen MUGO, KEN 2.41.19
2. Volha REZKAYA, BLR 2.53.57
3. Neza MRAVJE, SLO 2.59.30