Vienna's loss was Prague's gain. Volcanic ash prevented Eliud Kiptanui of Kenya going to the Vienna Marathon three weeks ago, but an explosive performance, winning the Volkswagen Prague Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, in 2:05:39 this morning (Sunday) has rocketed him into the top 20 marathoners in history.
Not bad for a young man not yet 21, whose only previous Marathon, in torrid conditions in Kenya four months ago was won in 2:12:17*. Such was his torrid pace in Prague that Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia, second in 2:07:11, and Nicholas Kipruto Koech of Kenya, third in 2:07:23 were also under the previous record of 2:07:48, set last year by another Kenyan Patrick Ivuti, who suffered from injuries this year, and could only finish 19th in 2:21:20.
Yet another Kenyan, Helena Kirop made good on her promise to run 2:25, and break the women's course record. She dominated the race, breaking away at halfway, and winning in 2:25:29, over a minute faster than Italian Maura Viceconte's record of 2:26:33, set back in 2001, now seen as the dark ages of marathoning.
His anonymity, coupled with his aggressive front-running may have led his rivals to think Kiptanui was a pacemaker. But that was dispelled in the latter stages of the race. There is a saying among marathoners that the race really begins at 35k, and when Kiptanui ran away from the last of his rivals at that very stage of the 42.2k race, no one was in any doubt that he would win.
By that time, race favourite Tsegay, fourth in the IAAF World Championships last summer had dropped off the pace into fifth place, leaving his colleague Getu Feleke to lead the vain pursuit of Kiptanui. But while the youngster was running the second half of the race almost a minute faster than the first, in 62.:23 to 63:16, the minor places underwent a radical change. Tsegay regrouped, to finish second, while Koech got the better of Feleke for third.
Kiptanui - 'If the field is good, I can go faster'
When Kiptanui won the Safaricom Marathon in Kisumu, Kenya in December, it was in humid conditions with the temperature well over 30C. But, he won there by over seven minutes.
"I was expecting a better time than 2:12," said Kiptanui immediately after the race here with, one feels, a degree of understatement. "I thought I could do 2:08, 2:09, but 2:05 is incredible, I'm very happy."
His time is sixth fastest in the world this year, but more importantly the 17th all-time, on a list led by Haile Gebrselassie, with 2:03:59, on the rapid Berlin course. Kiptanui's manager, Volker Wagner was on hand, reminding everyone that the Prague course, with several kilometres of cobblestones is far from being the fastest in the world.
"With a time like this, he can now get into races like New York, Chicago and Berlin," said Wagner. Asked about a faster time in, say Berlin, Kiptanui responded, "If the field is good, I can go faster."
The 75,000 EUR in prizes and bonuses here should also be a reminder of further possibilities. But in common with many of his compatriots, including Kirop who runs a foundation so that deprived girls can get schooling, Kiptanui's first thought, when asked what he would do with the money, was for his family. "My brothers (two) and sisters (three) are still in school, I have to assist them."
Despite fighting back to gain second place, Tsegay did not disguise his disappointment. "Some people might think 2:07:11 is a good time," the 25-year-old Ethiopian said at the press conference. "But I'm not happy with this time. What I think is a good time is 2:05."
In contrast, debutant, Koech was overjoyed with his 2:07:23. "I ran well in the half-marathon here, it's my favourite course, I'm very happy because it was my first marathon."
Kirop was equally pleased with her first victory in a dozen marathons. "I ran with friends until 20k, then pushed it until 35k. I'm very happy, because it's the first time I've won a marathon in my career."
Ashi Kasim of Ethiopia tracked Kirop through halfway, but blew up, and let Alevtina Ivanova of Russia through for second in 2:27:36. Kasim held on for third in 2:29:54.
Pat Butcher (organizers) for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1. Eliud KIPTANUI KEN 2.05.39
2. Yemane TSEGAY ETH 2.07.11
3. Nicholas KOECH KEN 2.07.23
4. Getu FELEKE ETH 2.08.04
5. Wilson KIPROP KEN 2.09.09
6. Denis NDISO KEN 2.10.51
7. Kenneth MUNGARA KEN 2.10.53
8. Dereje DEBELE ETH 2.11.13
9. Solomon BUSENDITCH/KEN/2.11.51
10. Josephat KEIYO KEN 2.12.21
1. Helena KIROP KEN 2.25.29
2. Alevtina IVANOVA RUS 2.27.36
3. Ashu KASIM ETH 2.29.54
4. Yulya RUBAN ROM 2.31.13
5. Florence CHEPSOI KEN 2.32.18
6. Larisa ZYUSZKO RUS 2.32.55
7. Lyubov MORGUNOVA/RUS/2.33.17
8. Eyerusalem KUMA ETH 2.39.15
9. Valentina POLTAVSKA/UKR 2.39.26
10. TetIana MESENTSEVA/UKR 2.40.05
* updated at 20:00 CET