Caroline Rotich en route to a 2:29:47 PB in Las Vegas (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
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Rotich and Toroitich collect Marathon wins in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, USAKenyans Caroline Rotich and Christopher Toroitich won their respective divisions at the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon on Sunday (6).

The professional women set off at 5:56 am, 19 minutes ahead of the professional men in a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ competition for a $10,000 first prize bonus. The 25-year-old Rotich emerged victorious in dramatic fashion with a winning time of 2:29:47 seconds. Rotich made up a 23 second gap over the final two miles to catch long-time race leader Alevtina Ivanova of Russia. Rotich made the winning pass at 2:26:50 into the race. Less than 3 minutes later she crossed the finish line as champion, earning $25,000 for the victory.

“This was the biggest win of my career so far,” said Rotich, who passed the halfway mark 75 seconds behind Ivanova and Alice Timbilili of Kenya. Rotich then reeled off a negative second half split of 1:12:33.

“At 20 miles they were far away from me I decided to run my own race,” explained Rotich. “At 25 miles I thought, you have to go, you can win!”

The win caps a banner year for Rotich, who so far in 2009 has run personal bests at 10k, 10 miles, and the half-marathon.  For the last eight months she has been living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, training with the AmeriKenyan Running Club, coached by 2000 U.S. Olympic triathlete Ryan Bolton.

The men’s marathon was won by another Kenyan, Christopher Toroitich. His time was 2:15:15. Toroitich, 25, won the 2007 Detroit Marathon, and finished third at the 2008 Country Music Marathon in Nashville. Here in Las Vegas he ran alone over the final eight miles after fellow-Kenyan Matthew Koech fell off the pace.  It was a disappointing marathon debut for Koech, who dropped out of the race at the 19-mile mark.

“Once we hit ten miles I thought I could win, and when the other guys were not responding I said, ‘ok, if they catch me it will have to be at the finish line’,” said Toroitich, who ran side-by-side with Koech, a sub-60:00 half marathoner, for 18 miles. “I was not afraid of him because the marathon is a different matter than the half marathon.”

2005 P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon champion Terefe Yae of Ethiopia out-sprinted his countryman Assefa Tesfaye to claim second place by one second in a time of 2:16:42.

Daba and Kidane nab half-marathon wins

21-year-old Ethiopian Bekana Daba won the men’s half-marathon by over a minute in 1:01:40, a new Nevada state record and the sixth fastest half-marathon run in the U.S. this year. He won the Carlsbad 5000 in April and owns a 5000m PB on the track of 12:59.

“It was a great race,” said Daba, who will defend his road race title at the 25th Anniversary of the Carlsbad 5000 on April 11, 2010.  “I really liked the course on the Strip, it was very entertaining.”

Ethiopian Werknesh Kidane, an eight-time medalist at the World Cross Country Championships, won the women’s half-marathon in 1:10:55. Americans took three of the top five spots in the race, led by Hanson-Brooks Distance Project standout Desi Davila. Davila, who represented Team USA at this summer’s IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Berlin, finished second in 1:12:14.

A momentous, entertainment extravaganza featuring two white Bengal tigers, Vegas showgirls, skydivers and a 15 minute fireworks show greeted more than 27,600 runners at the start line. For the first time in Las Vegas marathon history, the entire Strip was closed in both directions for the event.

The unprecedented race course looped around the world-famous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas Sign’ and was highlighted by the Strip’s renowned attractions including the Treasure Island pirate ship, Mirage volcano and Bellagio fountains. The race featured over 300 running Elvises, 85 couples getting married in front of the Paris Casino, along with live bands at every mile of the course.

Dan Cruz (organisers) for the IAAF

Leading results -
Men Marathon
1. Christopher Toroitich, 28, Kenya, 2:15:15, $15,000
2. Terefe Yae, 28, Ethipoia, 2:16:42, $8,000
3. Assefa Tesfaye, 25, Ethiopia, 2:16:43, $4,000
4. Augustus Kavutu, 32, Kenya, 2:18:06, $2,000
5. Stephen Haas, 26, USA, 2:18:45, $2,000*
*Includes $1,000 as top American finisher

Women Marathon
1. Caroline Rotich, 25, Kenya, 2:29:47, $25,000^
2. Alevtina Ivanova, 34, Russia, 2:30:05, $8,000
3. Serkalem Abrha, 22, Ethiopia, 2:36:26, $4,000
4. Adanech Zekiros, x, Ethiopia, 2:39:19, $2,000
5. Jane Kibii, 25, Kenya, 2:40:12. $1,000
^Includes $10,000 ‘Battle of the Sexes’ Bonus

Men Half Marathon
1. Bekana Daba, 21, Ethiopia, 1:01:40, $3,000
2. Stephen Muange, 26, Kenya, 1:03:11, $1,750
3. Teodoro Vega, 33, Mexico, 1:03:13, $1,000
4. Edward Tabut, 25, Kenya, 1:04:28, $750
5. Fernando Cabada, 27, USA, 1:04:56, $500
Women Half Marathon
1. Werknesh Kidane, 28, Ethiopia, 1:10:55, $3,000
2. Desi Davila, 26, USA, 1:12:14, $1,750
3. Claudia Bacque, 33, USA, 1:16:22, $1,000
4. Hyvon Ngetich, 24, Kenya, 1:16:31, $750
5. Sally Meyerhoff, 25, USA, 1:16:41, $500