Japhet Kosgei crosses the line in 2:10:54, a course record in Belgrade (Pedja Djurovic) © Copyright
General News Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro

2:10:54 course record for Kosgei in Belgrade

Belgrade, Serbia & MontenegroJaphet Kosgei put three years of indifferent performances behind him, and did exactly as he promised the day before, winning the 19th Belgrade Banca Intesa Marathon on Saturday, in 2:10:54, a new course record.

The 38-year-old Kenyan from Eldoret predicted both victory and the record, and he took over a minute off the previous best mark, 2:12:10. His compatriot, Festus Kioko Kikumu was also under the old record, with 2:11:30 in second place, and Ruben Mutumwo made it a Kenyan clean sweep, finishing third in 2:13:31.

Kosgei had played the previous day’s press conference like a stand-up comedian, telling the audience that his loss of form after three sub-2:08 performances and victories in Rotterdam ’99, Tokyo ’00 and Lake Biwa in ’03 was due to getting married, then adding after laughter, “and starting a business”.

He elaborated after his victory.

“People said I was too old, including my previous manager. But I was concentrating too much on my printing business, now I’m concentrating on running again, business can wait ‘til I retire. My body feels the same as six, seven years ago, when I was running 2:07. Now I want to keep on running, and break the world record for a 40-year-old.”

That is 2:08:46, by Andres Espinosa of Mexico, set in Berlin in 2003. And the way Koesgei frisked away from his compatriots in Belgrade suggest that he may well achieve it. In clement cloudy weather, and temperatures rising from 10-15C throughout the race, Kosgei stayed with a group of eight until 35k, before easing away to victory.

“We always say that the start of the race is 35k. I wanted to know who would follow me, and no one followed, everything worked perfectly.”

In fact, Kikumu tried to follow, but as he said afterwards, “I was not surprised that it was Kosgei who went away. After I talked to him yesterday, I knew he would win, and I knew I would be second.”

Mutumwo said, “I wanted to follow, but if you go at someone else’s pace, you might not finish, so I ran at my own pace. I’m still learning, maybe next time, the result will be different.”

It was the experience of almost 20 marathons which won the women’s race for Halina Karnatsevitch. At halfway, the Belorussian was 1min 20sec down on relative newcomer, Chemokil Chilapong of Kenya. But Chilapong, having her first race outside Kenya was too optimistic, and was caught at 30k. Karnatsevitch won in 2:34:35, with Chilapong second in 2:36:10. Ethiopian, Adenech Beyene was third in 2:41:12.

Former track and field superstar, Carl Lewis fired the starting signal, and presented the awards afterwards, including the Fred Lebow Trophy for both winners. Lewis, 44 said, “the longest I’ve ever run is 10k, well I don’t say run, I jogged. If I ever wake up one morning, and really want to test myself physically, it would be at the marathon, but it would be jogging. These guys are the heroes, the real runners."

Pat Butcher for the IAAF