After a disappointing outing at the Beijing Olympics last summer, World Marathon champion, Corporal Luke Kibet, seems to have soldiered on gracefully.
Running for his Western Province team, Kibet, who dropped out of the Beijing Olympics Marathon race won by compatriot Sammy Wanjiru, obliterated the opposition to win the senior men’s 12-kilometre race at the Kenya Prisons National Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
Kibet, who has been training with a big, world class team of Marathon runners in Eldoret, took the lead from the halfway mark and never looked back, crossing the line with a winning margin of close to 100 metres at the Kenya Prisons Staff Training College in Ruiru town on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Kibet’s winning time of 37 minutes, 59.1 seconds was 12 seconds faster than second-placed John Mwangangi.
The two were in the huge lead pack going into the six-kilometre mark where they broke off with third-placed Benjamin Kemboi in tow.
Kibet’s endurance held him in good stead when he stretched the gap from Mwangangi to 50 metres at 8km and maintained the pace for the cool finish in front of the Commissioner of Prisons, Isaiah Osugo, and a group of secretaries-general of African Athletics Federations who were at the VIP dais.
Chepkurui takes women’s crown
The Kenya Prisons Service boasts a steady production line for top notch women distance runners.
They include the first African woman to win the senior women’s title at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Hellen Chepng’eno, who struck the long course gold in Budapest in 1994.
Chepng’eno, now Chief Officer I at Nairobi’s Langata Women’s Prison, was among the guests who watched as celebrated Prisons stars Catherine Ndereba, Margaret Okayo, Susan Chepkemei, Edith Masai and Selina Kosgei, inter alia, and a retinue of upstarts battled for the senior women’s 8km title.
Interestingly, it was an outsider who came out tops when Eunice Chepkurui engaged Pauline Wangui, a fresh recruit, in a two-horse race before claiming the title in 29 minutes and nine seconds, just 3.2 seconds faster than Wangui.
Kibet and Ndereba were using the Prisons meet to work on their speed with the hope of defending the world marathon titles they won in Osaka when this year’s competition comes up in Berlin in August.
“It was not a bad race. I’m preparing for the London Marathon and I thought I should use the Prisons championships to work on my speed,” said Kibet who recovered from his Olympics fiasco to win the 2008 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in a course record 2:13.1 last December.
“My training has been good and I look forward to making it to the Kenyan team to Berlin and defending my world title.
“Cross country running is not my cup of tea and I know despite wining here, it will be difficult to make it into the Kenyan team at the trials (on February 21 in Nairobi).”
The men’s field also included Japanese guest runners Takayuki Matsumiya and Hiroshi Yamada.
Last weekend, civilian Joel Kemboi Kimurer won the blue riband 12km race at the Kenya Police championships and disclosed that he wanted to get noticed and land a job in the police force.
It was a similar script at the Prisons championships where an individual entrant, Chepkurui, out kicked the Prisons officers to take the women’s 8km title in 29:09.0.
Along with Wangui, Chepkurui broke away from a pack of about 10 and opened up a 10-metre gap going into the second lap with Ndereba a distant 11th and three times world short course champion, Edith Masai, a further two places back.
The pair exchanged leads going into the last two kilometres when Chepkurui broke off with Wangui unsuccessfully giving chase.
Masai and Okayo, the latter on a long comeback programme after a catalogue of injuries, failed to finish the race with Ndereba managing seventh (30:09.02).
“Today’s race was tough and challenging but I knew I had the strength,” said Chepkurui, who represented Kenya at the 1999 First IAAF World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz and 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago where she finished fourth and fifth respectively in the 1,500m
“I have been training in Kapsabet with Martin Lel’s group under coach Stephen Langat and I wanted to run well here to get a job with the Prisons and fight for a chance at the nationals to make the Kenya team to the World Cross Country Championships.”
Ndereba was impressed with the talent in her Prisons team. “I’m sure our Prisons team will do well at the nationals,” she said.
The world champion said she has set her sights on a defence of her world title in Berlin and a possible world record in the marathon this season.
“I don’t know yet when and where I will make the (world record) attempt but, of course, Chicago, London and Berlin are the best marathons for record runs.”
Chepkemei, who has completed a one-year ban slapped on her for using the banned substance, Salbutamol, for asthma medication, had a fairly good comeback race, taking it easy to finish in 26th place in 33:45.6.
“The young athletes are much faster these days. I’m just coming back and I’ll take it easy to see how my body responds after my lay-off,” Chepkemei said.
Elias Makori for the IAAF
Men – 1. Luke Kibet 37:59.1, 2. John Mwangangi 38:11.1, 3. Benjamin Kemboi 38:15.7, 4. Fredrick Musyoki 38:16.8, 5. Richard Ndegwa 38:20.4, 6. Timothy Kiptoo 38:31.9, 7. Silas Kiplagat 38:36.9, 8. Bernard Rotich 38:43.4, 9. Michael Mutai 38:52.0, 10. Jackson Kakorio 39:10.2.
Women – 1. Eunice Chepkurui 29:09.0, 2. Pauline Wangui 29:12.9, 3. Fridah Mwikali 29:34.4, 4. Agnes Katunge 29:38.9, 5. Mumbua Kioko 29:41.3, 6. Diane Chepkemoi 29:45.3, 7. Catherine Ndereba 30:09.2, 8. Nancy Nzisa 30:10.2, 9. Jane Murage 30:32.3, 10. Gladys Chebet 30:42.6, 19. Catherine Kirui 32:27.8, 26. Susan Chepkemei 33:45.6
DNF: Margaret Okayo and Edith Masai.