Paris, FranceRunning in rainy and chilly conditions, John Mwangangi and Sarah Chepchirchir of Kenya took top honors at the 33rd edition of the 20 Kilomètres de Paris, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race.
Mwangangi made a point to defend his 2010 title by taking the lead from the start at the Eiffel Tour. The slippery pavement on the Pont de Iéna forced the runners to make a cautious start as the first kilometre was covered in a slow 3:15. Mwangangi, progressively accelerating in the Bois de Boulogne, was closely followed by Eritrean Samson Kiflemarian and his Kenyan teammates Isaiah Ondieki and Geoffrey Kenesi, all part of a lead group of eight.
As the rain had almost stopped, the leader reached the half way in 29:19 after having covered the previous two kilometres at 2:49 pace in the uphill portion. This tremendous effort opened a 10-metre gap over his rivals and inflicted serious damage to the group. Surprisingly, Moroccans Mustapha El Aziz and Hicham Adibab were still in contention as well as the two last minute entrants, Ethiopians Maco Gishu Dida and Woldemikael Feyisa Bekele. At 12 kilometres, just as last year, Mwangangi injected a decisive acceleration on the Quais de Seine.
While passing the Louvre Museum, Mwangangi’s advance was now some 30 metres over the two Moroccans and Bekele, with Dida and Kenesi about 20 metres behind. If there was no doubt about the winner, the battle for the second place was intense, as Bekele and El Aziz multiplied the attacks around the 17th kilometre for the U-turn back towards the Eiffel Tour.
Never looking back, Mwangangi, 21 (born 1 November 1990) successfully defended his title in 58:14.
“And I hope to come back next year in order to take a third victory, I’m very happy and I’m already set to come back here!” warned the 1.57m/50kg winner, before explaining his race. “Today I had the impression that I was stronger than last year. The difference is that this time the race started slower so I had to push hard at the 10km in order to be in position to win again.” The African Cross Country champion will now come back to his Kenyan home in Machakos in order to prepare his next race, a Half-Marathon in Valencia in two weeks time.
Rose Chelimo, winner in 2010 like Mwangangi, couldn’t impose the same tactics as Mirriam Wangari, triple winner in Paris (2007-2008-2009) took the lead. The other Kenyans Sarah Chepchirchir (2nd in 2009), Cynthia Cherotich (winner of Tours’ 20km) and Lucy Macharia (winner of Marcq en Baroeul) were all in the pack and all credible contenders for the victory.
As the half way was reached in 33:25, it was acknowledged that Wangari’s race record of 1:05:30 was safe. After having passed the Hippodrome d’Auteil, Chepchirchir injected a painful acceleration in the long slope along Seine River, and neither Wangari nor Chelimo could respond. Chelimo tried in vain to reduce the gap and at the 17th kilometre, it was Wangari’s turn to make an unsuccessful attempt to join the leader.
Chepchirchir eventually won in 1:06:06, nine seconds over Wangari and 17 seconds over Chelimo. After the Kenyan women collectively celebrated their triumph, Chepchirchir gave her feelings on her performance.
“Today the weather made the race difficult, so I tried to give my best to win.” Wangari, missing a record fourth victory in Paris, was nevertheless happy and explained in good French the Kenyan plan: “We started all together at a gentle pace and progressively accelerate at the 8th kilometre before speeding up at the 11th, so that the girls were eliminated one per one.” A brilliant strategy that paid off well for the Kenyans today.
Pierre Jean Vazel for the IAAF
1. John Nzau Mwangangi (KEN) 58:14
2. Woldemikael Feyisa Bekele (ETH) 58:22
3. Mustapha El Aziz (MAR) 58:25
1. Sarah Chepchirir (KEN) 1:06:06
2. Mirriam Wangari (KEN) 1:06:15
3. Rose Chelimo (KEN) 1:06:23