For the fifth year running, there was a course record in Brighton as William Chebor smashed the previous best with a fine run of 2:09:25 at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (6).
That was more than a minute inside the 2013 time of 2:10:46 and showed that the decision to improve the course had reaped the benefits.
The field set off under leaden skies at a cool nine degrees. The rain managed to hold off, but the wind was the biggest factor, blowing from the south west at a brisk 14 miles an hour.
Led by three pacemakers, the men’s field swept through the half-way mark outside the Hilton hotel in 1:05:22, only just inside course record pace. But a second half in a sprightly 1:04:03 ensured the record.
Leading a group of eight, Kangor and Chebor kept trading blows at the front over the second half of the race.
Chebor’s winning time could well have been faster had the winner not stopped to tie his shoelace at the seven-mile mark. That unscheduled stop lost Chebor at least 60m and meant that he had to expend valuable energy getting back to the lead group.
But all’s well that ends well and by the time the finish line loomed, Chebor was away and 40 metres clear of Dominic Kangor for a fine victory. Kangor, the defending champion who set a personal best of 2:10:46 for his win in 2013, was also well inside 2:10 to record a lifetime best of 2:09:36, an improvement of more than a minute.
“I didn’t expect to win,” said Chebor, though it must be said that he had the fastest time of the field with his 2:08:21 and was the favourite in most people’s eyes.
“It was at the 37km mark that I managed to break away from Dominic. It was very competitive. But it was also very windy.”
In fact it was the wind that provided the crucial impetus that produced the record. During the middle section of the race as the athletes turned west at the ninth mile, they had the wind in their faces.
For the next six miles the lead group, led by Chebor and Kangor, were hovering about course record pace. Little by little the record was slipping away and with the toughest section of the marathon to come it hardly seemed feasible that they would be able to haul in the time lost.
But when they turned at mile 21 and finally had the wind at their backs, the pace suddenly quickened and the record was back on with the fastest mile of the race flying by in a dizzying 4:39.
In the ensuing miles the cadence improved considerably and with every step the two leaders were eating into the target time. The 22-mile mark, reached in 1:49:12, was where Chebor made the break which proved decisive.
In third place and completing the Kenyan podium with a time of 2:12:17 was Wilfred Murgor who had formed part of the lead trio until he started to fade at the 35km marker, reached in 1:48:09.
At that stage the leaders were 16 seconds down on the 2013 record but that situation was soon to change to dramatic effect.
Milgo makes it a Kenyan double
For the women it was a different story. For the first time in five years they were unable to emulate the men with a course record, but there was certainly a personal best for Alice Serser Milgo by more than a minute-and-a-half as she breasted the tape – held by world record-holder Paula Radcliffe – in 2:35:33.
Ethiopia’s Selam Abere was runner-up in 2:36:37 while Britain’s Rebecca Robinson crossed the line third in 2:37:41.
As was the case in the men’s race, the women’s battle had also come down to a head-to-head between Milgo and Purity Kimetto.
But Kimetto was to suffer for her temerity as she started to slip off the pace after the half-way point, reached in 1:14:39, before she eventually finished fourth.
Though it was a personal best for the Kenyan winner, she revealed that she had had problems with her hip. “At 35km I had to slow down because of my hip, but I feel okay. With that time, I feel as though I am now at my best.”
Abere found the course to her liking, but added: “It was tough because of the wind.”
It was a different story for third-placed Robinson who finished just outside her lifetime best. “It has taken me four years to get back to fitness again so I am happy. I pushed the pace as much as possible to the half-way mark but then I had to slow down. I am pleased with my time, even though it was just outside my PB.”
Both Kenyan winners received $6000 in prize money, with Chebor earning an additional $5000 for running faster than 2:10.
The day started with the inaugural 10km. The men’s race was won by Olympic Nick McCormick in 29:11 while the women’s title went to a delighted Alyson Dixon in a lifetime best of 32:35, representing an improvement of 18 seconds on her previous PB.
Dixon is enjoying the best form of her life. A former Brighton Marathon winner, last weekend she recorded a lifetime best at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen and now adds another career best to her CV.
Michael Butcher (organisers) for the IAAF