Francis Kibiwott edges David Mandago Kipkorir in Seoul (organisers) © Copyright
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Kibiwott takes narrow victory in Seoul

2 November 2009Seoul, KoreaFrancis Kibiwott of Kenya and 25-year-old Korean Sung Young Lee took victories at the JoongAng Seoul Marathon on Sunday (01). Kibiwott won’ the men’s race in a 2:09:00 personal best and Lee defended her title in the women’s contest in 2:34:22.

On a damp cool morning (10 C) under cloudy skies and light mist, over 11,000 runners from 25 countries toed the start line for the 11th edition of the marathon – an IAAF Silver Label Road Race - at Jamsil Main Stadium, and more than 10,000 followed setting off on a 10 km race. It is one of the biggest marathons in Korea and Asia, held on a slightly hilly loop course, passing through some scenic parts of Seoul and roads lined with beautiful autumn trees.

The men’s course record of 2:08:13 was set by Kenyan Jason Mbote who in 2006 improved by 14 seconds the  previous best time set by his countryman William Kiplagat in 2005 (2:08:27). The women’s field is traditionally dominated by Korean runners, as international women elite runners are not invited. The current course record of 2:29:32 was set in 2007 by Korean Eun-Jung Lee. Last year champion’s Solomon Molla missed this year’s race due to injury.

Despite the strong men’s elite field of 23 runners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and Korea with strong personal best results from 2009, the overall course record remained unchanged.

Men’s race -

A pack of eight runners – the experienced Kibiwott and David Mandago Kipkorir, Felix Limo, 29, David Kemboi Kiyeng, 26, Stephen Kipkoech Kibiwot, 34 and Jacob Kiplagat Yator, all from Kenya, joined by Wegaehu Tefera from Ethiopia and El Gagy Najim from Morocco - led from the gun.

Overcoming a small hill on the fourth km the pack passed through the 5 km point in 15:00 leaving same eight runners in the hunt for the prize purse of US $134,000. All six of these Kenyan athletes have got personal bests below 2:10, and three of them were prize winners at the 2009 Paris Marathon: Kiyeng took third place with a PB 2:06:26, Kipkorir clocked sixth in 2:06:53 PB, and Kibiwott crossed 12th  in 2:09:13 PB. Kiyeng also set a 1:00:44 half marathon PB in Verbania, Italy earlier this year. Kibiwot, crossed 2nd in PB 2:07:54 in Prague Marathon 2009, and Yator, 27, won 2009 Enschede marathon in PB 2:09:02. Tefera completed 2009 Ottawa marathon in PB 2:13:28, El Gadi set a 1:01:51 PB in the 2009 Rabat Half Marathon, placing fourth and was making his marathon debut. 

Two Korean runners, Myung-Seung Lee and Park Youn Min, fell some 70 metres behind the pack, leaving another gap behind them.

The same pack of eight led by Kibiwott passed through 10 km mark shoulder to shoulder in 30:01 increasing the gap between the Korean runners to 200 metres.

Climbing the hill between the 10th and 11th kilometre did not slow down the pack and the same eight followed Kibiwott to the 15 km mark to cross it in 45:28, leaving Lee and Min some 300 metres behind.

By the 20th km mark they again showed remarkable consistency following the leader and overcoming more hills in 1:00:59, with Korean runners now falling some 400 metress behind. The hills did not finish here and by the 25th km mark El Gadi fell out of the hunt. The pack thinned to seven crossing the mark in just under 1:16, gradually building the lead with Kibiwott in front, dropping El Gadi 200 metres behind.

The 30 km mark was passed by five in 1:31:18, with Yator five metres behind and Limo more than 200 metres behind. By the 35 km (1:46:17) mark the pack thinned to just three – Kibiwott, Kipkorir, and Kibiwot – and passed it 1:46:17. Kiyeng and Tefera trailed some 50 metres behind. Over the next five kilometers Kibiwott and Kipkorir threw in tentative surges, passing 40 km in 2:02:04, with Kibiwot trailing by 40 metres. On the last finish stretch Kibiwott made the decisive effort to overtake Kipkorir to take a narrow victory in 2:09:01, less than a second ahead of Kipkorir. Kibiwot finished third clocking 2:09:24.

Women’s race -

The defending champion and Beijing Olympian, Sung-Young Lee, 25, (2:29:58 JoongAng Seoul Marathon 2008) greatly improved her seasonal performance by setting a 2:27:48 PB at this year’s Seoul Int’l Marathon. However, this time she changed her tactics to a more defensive style compared with the previous year and allowed the pack to run away from her. In the absence of international elite field, the race came down to four. The lead pack of three - Seong Eun Kim, So Jeong Heo, Eun Ha Lim – reached the 5 km mark in 16:23, leaving Lee more than 500 metres behind. By the 10th km mark the pack fell apart. Kim headed the race, passing through the mark in 35:49. Lee pulled up and took the second position following the leader 30 metres adrift. Heo and Lim rolled on 400 metres back. By 15 km Lee fell some 160 meters behind Kim who crossed the mark in 53:07. Lim followed 700 meters behind Lee, with Heo another 40 metres back.

Kim passed 20 km mark in 1:29:21, the rest followed in the same order. Lee remained on the look out at the same distance, leaving Lim almost a kilometre behind. Kim reached the 25 km mark in 1:29:21 and Lee now pulled up and was some 20 metres away from her, getting ready for the final stretch. Between the 20th and the 25th km Lim dropped out turning the race into a three-way battle.

By the 30 km (1:47:54) mark the defending champion took charge of the race, leaving Kim more than 500 metres behind and Heo lagging some two kilometres back. By the 35th km mark, which Lee passed in 2:06:24, Kim already fell 800m behind with Heo well back and out of contention. Lee continued to the finish line alone and eventually broke the tape unchallenged in 2:34:22.

Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF

Leading Results -


4. DAVID KEMBOI KIYENG, KEN         2:10:45
5. JACOB KIPLAGAT YATOR, KEN        2:11:33
6. WEGAYEHU TEFERA, ETH             2:11:33
7. FELIX LIMO, KEN                  2:13:13
8. EL GADY NAJIM, MAR               2:14:29
9. PARK YOUN MIN, KOR               2:15:03
10. MYUNG-SEUNG LEE, KOR            2:15:23
11. LEE KYO JICKKOR, KOR            2:23:03
12. BYUN JIN WOOKOR, KOR            2:26:50

1. Sun Young Lee  KOR   2:34:22
2. Seong Eun Kim  KOR   2:37:30
3. So Jeong Heo  KOR    2:47:42