Evergreen Kenneth Mungara, now 41, and his Kenyan compatriot Lucy Karimi took the 2015 SuisseGas Milano Marathon titles, winning at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race in 2:08:44 and 2:27:35 on Sunday (12).
Mungara, who hails from Limuru about 40km from Nairobi, ran the fastest marathon ever by a runner older than 40, shaving two seconds from the time Mexico’s Andres Espinosa ran at the 2003 Berlin Marathon.
Nine men initially formed the leading group featuring the two Kenyan pacemakers Emmanuel Kichwen and Asbel Kipsang, Mungara and six other compatriots: Philemon Baaru, William Koitile, Samson Bungei, Cyprian Kotut and Paul Lipkorir Kipkemoi as well as Caldeira De Almeida from Brazil.
They went through 5km in 15:15, 10km in 30:24, 15km in 45:40 and they hit the halfway mark in 1:04:11.
Kipsang and Kichwen then passed through 30km in 1:31:22 with a gap of 10 seconds back to Kotut, Baaru, Koitile, Bungei and Mungara.
As the pacemakers dropped out, the leading pack was whittled down to five runners just after 30km: Mungara, Baaru, Bungei, Kotut and Koitile.
This group battled it out until 40km before Mungara then broke away with one kilometre to go.
Kotut, the younger brother of three-time London Marathon winner Martin Lel, finished second in 2:08:55 in his debut over the distance. Two more men dipped under 2:10. Baaru was third in 2:09:08 and Koitile fourth in 2:09:58.
Sunday’s outing was the fourth fastest of Mungara's career. He has now won 10 of his 21 marathons in a late-blooming career.
“The course and the weather were good. You can run fast times. It was a tough race until the end," said Mungara after crossing the finishing line in the Corso Venezia in the centre of Milan.
He only started running seriously in his early 30s, famously deciding to take up the sport when runners featured among his clients at his barber’s shop.
“I looked at these guys and I thought, ‘I can beat them’. I soon realised that they were tough. I could not beat them at first. I could not even train with them. I trained by myself. After a while, I went to a half marathon and I had to drop out, but I learned from my mistakes,” recalled Mungara
“This second place gives me a strong motivation. I hope Milan will be a springboard to run under 2:08 in the future," said Kotut, who has a 59:12 half marathon to his name.
The women’s race saw the leading group, formed by the Ethiopian trio of Meselech Beyene, Deressa Kumeshi and Geda Ayelu Lemma as well as three Kenyans – 2013 London and New York Marathon winner Priscah Jeptoo, who was making a test and running the first 30km, Pauline Wangui Ngigi and Lucy Karimi – go through 10km in 33:52.
Jeptoo, Karimi and Lemma reached halfway together in 1:11:23 with a gap of three seconds over Wangui.
Jeptoo then passed 30km in 1:41:53 with a gap of 10 seconds over Karimi, but once Jeptoo dropped out just after 30km, Karimi was alone at the front with an advantage of 54 seconds over Lemma.
Karimi steadily increased her margin of supremacy over her Ethiopian rival to more than two minutes at 40km and went on to cross the finish-line in 2:27:35.
Lemma finished second in 2:29:49 while Italy’s 37-year-old Fatna Maraoui took third place and demolished her personal best by more than three minutes when she crossed the line in 2:33:16.
More than 15,000 runners took part in the two main events on Sunday: 4916 runners competing in the marathon and 10,280 running in the popular relay marathon representing 2570 teams running for charity organisations. Former marathon world record-holder and two-time Olympic 10,000m champion Haile Gebrselassie ran on the first leg of the relay.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF