John Komen won the 24th edition of the Venice Marathon today (25) breaking the course record with 2:08:13, thanks to an outstanding second half in which he ran a negative split on a very difficult section of the course. Anne Kosgei won the women’s race in her new PB of 2:27:46.
The Venice Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
Two Kenyan pacemakers William Taragon and Jackson Kirwa led an eleven-men group who formed the leading pack. They went through 15km in 45:44 and 21km in 1:04:32 at an average of 3:02-3:03 for each kilometre.
Seven men were in the lead at the 28km mark when they crossed the Parco di San Giuliano, a vast green park area located near the headquarters of the Venice Marathon.
After clocking two kilometre splits in 3:02 and 3:03 at 29km and 30km, six men (Jackson Kirwa, Jonathan Kibet, John Komen, Paul Samoei, Alexander Kuzin and Benson Cherono) remained in contention. Ben Chebet, winner at the Padua Marathon last April in 2:09:41, dropped out of the race inside the Parco San Giuliano at 30 km.
At the start of the famous Ponte della Libertà (Bridge of Freedom) at 34km which links Mestre with Venice, Komen and Samoei broke away from Cherono, and Kuzin.
Komen and Samoei battled it out for a couple of kilometres until Komen managed to pull away at 35km when he injected a fierce change of pace which proved to be decisive.
Despite his big effort in the 7km split between the 32 and the 39km Komen still looked fresh in the final 3km when he entered in Venice to face the famous 14 bridges which have made the Venice Marathon famous all over the world.
Komen had increased his lead over Samoei to 50 seconds by 39km which he passed in 1:59:28. His winning time of 2:08:13 is very good considering that the leading pack was keeping a 2:09-2:10 pace until the 30 km when Komen changed gear in the final 12 kilometres (he clocked a negative split of 1:03:41 in the second half) at an average of 3:00 minutes for each kilometre.
“I won my first marathon and I set my PB. The second half of the race was very tough because of the bridges. I felt the section of the course across the Bridge of Freedom was demanding,” said Komen.
Paul Samoei in second set his PB with 2:10:09 lowering his previous lifetime best by 1:28. Benson Cherono, past winner in Beijing in 2005, Los Angeles and Milan in 2006, completed the Kenyan clean sweep clocking 2:10:19. Oleksander Kuzin from the Ukraine, the fastest man in the field with his career best of 2:07:33 set in Linz in 2007, was the best European with 2:10:54.
Komen won the Reims Marathon in 2:08:06 in 2008 and finished ninth at the Paris Marathon in 2009. Before Venice he won the Turin Half Marathon by two seconds in 1:01:57 at the end of September. Komen, who was born in 2007, played football and began running seriously in 2007 under the guidance of Gabriele Nicola, a young coach from Turin who trains a group of Kenyan runners in Iten.
The women’s race started a few minutes before the men’s from Strà on the banks of the Brenta River. After a conservative start (3:35 in the first km), top Italian marathon runner Bruna Genovese, who is training for the Yokohama Marathon, acted as a pacemaker in the first part of the race in the leading group which was formed by the other pacemaker Florence Chepsoi Jepkosgei, Anne Kosgei, Lenah Cheruiyot (winner at the Venice Marathon in 2006 and 2007 and course record holder with 2:27:02 set in 2007), Italian Giovanna Volpato, Ethiopian Jelena Val Koren, Russian Yelena Sokolova, Margaret Toroitich from Kenya, Ana Dias from Portugal and Hakda Maji from Ethiopia. They went through the 5 km mark in 17:28.
Cheruiyot stayed in the leading group at 15 km (52:24) and 21 km (1:13:46) but soon lost the ground at 25km due to knee problems and dropped out of the race. At this point (1:27:34) with Chepsoi accomplishing her pace-making duties with Anne Kosgei and Yelena Sokolova in attendence, Kosgei took the initiative.
Only the two Ethiopians Yal Koren and Haji Makda managed to keep up with Kosgei when the she increased the pace, and the race developed into a two women’s battle at 30km between Kosgei and Koren who went through this mark in 1:44:39.
Kosgei and Yal Koren engaged a neck and neck battle on the Bridge of Freedom went through 35km in 2:01:58.
But Kosgei was the stronger and changed gear in the final kilometres to carve out a gap of 40 seconds over Yal Koren. The Kenyan leader passed 41 km in 2:24 and crossed the finish-line in 2:27:46 to improve her previous PB of 2:28:27 set when second in Venice in 2007. Today was her first career marathon win.
“After three second places I managed to win this race at last. I thank the organizers for giving me another chance. The fact that I know this course made my job easier,” said Kosgei, who had finished second in Venice three times in 2002, 2007, 2008.
Four women dipped under the 2:30 barrier. Yal Koren finished runner-up in 2:28:41 in her first ever marathon race beating Russian Alena Samokhyalova (2:28:47 improving her previous career best of 2:35). Harun Makdi Haji finished fourth in 2:29:56.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 John Komen (Kenya) 2:08:13
2 Paul Samoei (Kenya) 2:10:09
3 Benson Cherono (Kenya) 2:10:19
4 Alexander Kuzin (Ukraine) 2:10:54
5 Joseph Lomala (Kenya) 2:11:44
6 Jonathan Kibet (Kenya) 2:12:09
1 Anne Kosgei (Kenya) 2:27:46
2 Jelena Yal Koren (Ethiopia) 2:28:41
3 Alena Samokhyalova (Russia) 2:28:47
4 Makda Haji Harun (Ethiopia) 2:29:56
5 Ana Dias (Portugal) 2:30:12
6 Yelena Sokolova (Russia) 2:31:54
7 Margaret Toroitich (Kenya) 2:32:12
8 Giovanna Volpato (Italy) 2:32:15