Geoffrey Ronoh added yet another star name to the recent list of his vanquished rivals as the Kenyan beat his compatriot Geoffrey Mutai and broke the course record in the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10k, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Saturday evening (6).
Ronoh smashed the course record in the Czech capital by six seconds to win in 27:28, the second fastest time in the world on the roads this year.
Mutai, preparing for his New York Marathon title defence in November, finished four seconds behind.
When the mayor of Prague, Tomas Hudecek, fired the starting gun at 7.30pm local time to set 5500 runners on their way from Wenceslas Square, Mutai and Ronoh wasted little time in transforming the race into their own duel.
The temperature gauge showed 21 degrees Centigrade with humidity at 85 per cent but the pair maintained an intense pace, Mutai taking the lead with Ronoh in his tracks as 5km was passed in 13:19, inside world record pace. Mutai sensed this might take its toll.
“Yes, it was good but the humidity was going up and that made it difficult so when I saw the time, I slowed a little, then we pushed again.”
Ronoh, revealing perhaps inexperience in only his fourth international race, admitted he wasn’t aware that they were on world record schedule.
“It didn’t feel tough, it was excellent pace. Yes, it was humid but I train at midday so am used to it and also to counter-attack.”
His cool calculation worked well. With 22 minutes on the clock, for the first time the orange vest of Ronoh was in front by a couple of metres and the gap grew as they charged uphill across one of Prague’s many bridges.
Ronoh slowed a fraction to celebrate in the home straight but then glanced round and realised that Mutai was still coming and quickly stepped on the accelerator again before crossing the line to win his first official 10km race.
What fresh fields can Ronoh conquer? In response, he gave a diplomatic answer which still served as a warning to every marathon contender.
“I’ll talk with my manager and follow his advice. I believe that with good training I can beat anyone in any road race and the marathon.”
Ronoh also caused a sensation on the Czech roads earlier this summer when he beat another well-known Kenyan runner, the marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang, in the Olomouc Half Marathon on 21 June after being only added to the field to provide pace making duties.
Running 27:32 for second place was still a fine run in the light of Geoffrey Mutai’s marathon ambitions in New York.
“To run this time gives me confidence that my training is going well. It’s good to have such a strong athlete to push you,” he reflected.
Nicolas Bor reduced the gap on the leading pair in the closing stages of the race and finished third in 27:38 to make it a clean sweep of the top three for Kenya.
Correti Jepkoech was an emphatic winner of the women’s race, leading almost all the way form the gun.
The 23-year-old Kenyan also broke the course record, clocking 31:05 to take 55 seconds off the former record from the inaugural women’s race last year, set by her stable mate Josephine Chepkoech.
It was the third fastest time in the world this year.
Her compatriot Esther Chemtai was distant runner-up in 31:51 and Flomena Chepchirchir finished third in 32:30 to complete another all-Kenyan podium.
Andy Edwards (organisers) for the IAAF