Kenya’s Franklin Chepkwony cruised to a comfortable victory in the men’s race at the 84th Seoul International Marathon on Sunday (17), while his compatriot Filomena Chepchirchir won the women’s competition to complete the first ever Kenyan double at the only IAAF Gold Label Road Race in Korea.
Chepkwony, 28, crossed the line in 2:06:59 to become the fifth Kenyan men’s champion in the past six years in the Korean capital. He took home $80,000 for winning the race under 2:10:00 in what was his first victory over the classic distance.
Ethiopia’s Leche Shumi Dechase finished second in 2:07:12, setting a new personal best while Seboka Dibaba Tola, another Ethiopian, was third in 2:07:27.
Chepchirchir, 31, crossed the line in 2:25:43 to become the first Kenyan woman to win the Seoul International Marathon and end Ethiopian runner’s winning streak at four.
Two Ethiopian runners took the remaining spots on the podium. Emebt Etea Bedada was second in 2:25:53, her new personal best by almost nine minutes. Yeshimebet Tadesse Bifa finished third in 2:26:18, which was also a personal best.
In the men’s elite race, a group of about 20 runners moved out in front quickly after the gun went on the starting line at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, with Chepkwony part of the pack.
The leaders reached the 5km mark in 15:04 and maintained that steady rhythm through to 15km, passing that mark in 45:11, before slowing very slightly over the next 5km and reaching 20km mark in 1:00:28.
By 25km, passed in 1:15:41, the leading group had thinned to eight runners, with Chepkwony, Dechase, Tola and Ethiopia’s Afewerk Mesfin visible at the head of the pack.
This group got to 30km in 1:30:38 but then Chepkwony started to push the pace and the group quickly separated. Chepkwony lead at 35km in 1:45:22 with Dechase just a second behind but the rest were left trailing in the Kenyan’s wake.
Over the next 5km, Chepkwony continued to push hard and he left his Ethiopian rival behind. The leader went through 40km in 2:00:07, with Dechase following him 18 seconds later, although the latter managed to close the gap a little over the final two kilometres.
Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, who only six weeks ago won the Beppu-Oita Marathon on home soil, exactly matched his personal best of 2:08:15 set in that race when finished fourth. He has now run five Marathons since the start of December, but his three-race winning streak was snapped Sunday.
The title drought for host nation Korea stretched to six years. The first local runner was Seong Ji-hoon in 13th place , who shattered his previous personal mark by nearly six minutes with a time of 2:12:53.
Chepchirchir makes her move at 35km
In the women’s competition, Chepchirchir was among the leaders from start to finish, fending off two Ethiopians.
Four runners were together as they passed 5km in 17:13, the three women who eventually finished on the podium and Bahrain’s Lishan Dula Gemgchu, but the Asian athlete could fell off the back of the leading pack just after 10km, which the leaders passed in 34:20.
After that it was just a fight between Chepchirchir, Bedada and Bifa.
The trio made it to 15km together in 51:34, but the Kenyan had edged ahead by two seconds at 20km mark, where Chepchirchir was timed at 1:08:47.
The three back together again by 25km, which was passed in 1:25:48 and the three runners were still shoulder-to-shoulder at the 30km checkpoint in 1:42:43.
Bedada and Chepchirchir then started to put a little distance between them and Bifa duruing the next 5km stretch and at 35km, as the two leaders were timed at 2:00:21 with Bifa trailing them by 17 seconds.
Shortly afterwards, Chepchirchir then started to turn the screw and made it to 40km with a seven seconds lead over Bedada, the Kenyan timed at 2:17:59, and extended her lead to 10 seconds by the time she crossed finish line for her first Marathon win in five outings since her debut in 2011.
It was a stark contrast to 12 months ago in Seoul when Chepchirchir struggled home in 10th place. The winner made $40,000 for her efforts. The prize money would have doubled had she come in faster than 2:24:00.
For the second straight year, Kim Sung-eun finished fourth overall and was the first Korean home. Her time of 2:27:21 bettering her previous personal best by more than two minutes.
Yoo Jee-Ho for the IAAF