Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat once again took a commanding win at the eDreams Mitja Marato Barcelona, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, but the 28-year-old had to settle for a time of 1:09:19 on Sunday (14), more than four minutes outside the half marathon world record of 1:05:09 she set in the same city 12 months ago.
As she had announced on her arrival in Barcelona on Thursday, Kiplagat was not in the same kind of form which led her to two world records on her previous two appearances in the Catalan city.
Her usual pacemaker Marc Roig set a steady pace from the gun which made it quite clear that her world record was never seriously going to be challenged.
Kiplagat went through the opening 5km in 16:31, nearly a full minute outside the impressive 15:38 she clocked last year.
The pair sped up and reached the 10km point in 32:42 – a 16:09 split – and 15km in 49:06 but were still almost three minutes slower than last year when Kiplagat clocked a 46:13 world record for the distance.
However, despite small adjustments being made to the course in the hope that it was going to be faster, a combination of the relatively poor weather conditions and her interrupted training in recent months led to her relatively modest time.
“As I had suggested, I’m short of fitness this year so another world record was not in my thoughts today," said Kiplagat. "In addition, it was very windy so running fast was difficult.
“I'll now return to Iten to keep on with my build-up for the London Marathon in April. I would like to make the Kenyan team for the Rio Olympics and try to get my first Olympic medal.
“I’m extremely grateful to the people of Barcelona for their support and hospitality. Even though it was impossible for me to achieve the (world) record, the most notable today has been the support of the crowd, between kilometres 14 and 15 it has been spectacular. I hope to come back next year to break the 1:05 barrier," she added.
There was an interesting fight for second place between Sweden’s Isabellah Andersson and Portugal’s Jessica Augusto.
They were together at the 5km point, which was passed in 16:36 – already five seconds behind Kiplagat – but the Swede managed to open a 13-second gap on the former European cross country champion by 10km, clocking 33:02 and 33:15 respectively.
Andersson lengthened her advantage to 26 seconds at the 15km mark but Augusto clawed back much of the deficit and only eight seconds separated them at the tape, Andersson being timed at 1:10:50 to Augusto’s 1:10:58.
Kipruto fulfils his role as favourite
The men’s event, held in conjunction with the women’s race, had earlier seen pre-race favourite Vincent Kipruto fulfil his part of the bargain in helping Kenya get a double victory in Barcelona.
The early pace, as dictated by the pacemakers, initially promised a finishing time within 61 minutes as a leading group of eight passed the 5km and 10km marks in 14:32 and 29:10.
By the 15km point, reached in 44:31 after a slow 15:21 5km split, there still were five athletes with winning chances in the guise of the Kenyan triumvirate of Kipruto, Samuel Kibiwot and Josephat Kiprono Menjo as well as Ethiopia’s Abdi Fufa and Italy’s European marathon champion Daniele Meucci.
Once the leaders realised a quick performance was not on the cards, the rhythm slowed down even more as the runners concentrated on just getting the win, or a good position.
After Kiprono Menjo had dropped away, the quartet of Kipruto, Kibiwot, Fufa and Meucci reached 20km with the clock reading 59:52.
The tactical affair was finally decided when the 28-year-old Kipruto, the winner of the Xiamen Marathon last month, outsprinted Meucci over the closing 200 metres to claim victory in 1:02:54 with the Italian one second behind and the unheralded Fufa completing the podium in third place with 1:02:57.
"They told me it was a fast circuit but I didn’t expect it to be so fast,” said Kipruto, who has a half marathon best of 1:00:19. "Without a doubt, the best has been the support of the crowd, and it was a pity about the wind because it prevented me to achieve a better time.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF