A perfectly paced race gave Kenyan marathon specialist Stanley Biwott victory in the 58th Sao Silvestre International 10km race in Luanda, Angola, on Tuesday (31).
With the mercury hitting 32 degrees Celsius and 52% humidity, Biwott crossed the line in 28:31 three seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Ethiopia’s 2013 IAAF World Championships 5000m finalist Yenew Alamirew.
Despite the heat, with over 30 athletes capable of breaking 29 minutes for 10km in the field, it was no surprise that there were still 15 runners in the leading pack shortly after three kilometres.
Biwott and his compatriot Edwin Kipyego exchanged the lead during the next two kilometres, with Eritrea’s two-time winner Zersenay Tadese on the outside of the pack, which also included the 2012 winner Atsedu Tesfaye before he drifted back during the second half of the race, as they passed 5km in 14:36.
The group was whittled down to seven by the time they turned onto the two-kilometre descent towards Luanda's newly refurbished beachfront, with Kipyego still pushing the pace but unable to break free.
Along the promenade, Alamirew then took his turn at the front and faced the wind head-on with Kipyego and Tadese dropping into his slipstream, while Biwott remained content to bring up the rear of the quartet who were at the front from eight kilometres.
However, in the final two kilometres, Biwott took charge and surged for home.
The twists and turns en-route to the finish line in the Angolan capital’s Estadio dos Coqueiros played into Biwott’s hands as one-by-one his rivals dropped off the back, with Biwott finally getting the better of Alamirew as they sprinted down the home straight of the stadium track to cross the line in 28:31 and 28:34 respectively.
Kipyego was third with Tadese, the former World Cross Country Championships and World Half Marathon Championships winner, fourth.
"The race was very competitive. I knew many of the guys were faster so I had to get to the front," said Biwott, the 2012 Paris Marathon winner, who has a personal best of 27:50 for 10km on the roads.
"During the last two kilometres, I thought that perhaps I could win, continued Biwott. "I’m pleased with the time because it’s hilly (at the start), it’s hot "and the wind was tough along the beach front. We had to push very hard."
Jeptoo the route master
The London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist and 2013 New York Marathon winner, Priscah Jeptoo, defended her Sao Silvestre title in the women’s race after a conservative start that saw the Kenyan in third place during the early stages of the race.
Kenya’s Pauline Njeru led going into the steep climb towards the underpass at three kilometres but, by the time the field emerged from under the crowd-lined bridge, Jeptoo’s superior route knowledge saw her ease into the lead.
A kilometre later, Jeptoo had control of the race with her countrywoman Flomena Daniel 30 metres adrift and Njeru hanging onto third; and the situation remained the same for the remainder of the race.
Jeptoo improved on her 2012 time by 21 seconds to break the tape in 32:10, 13 seconds ahead of Daniel.
"It was very difficult because of the (high standard of) competition but I knew the route. I planned to start slowly and then to gradually increase the pace,” said Jeptoo. "The time was OK. I can’t expect to run faster on this course. But it's a good race and the course suits me."
The event is one of the oldest road races on the African continent and has, despite four decades of independence and civil wars which ended in 2002, been held every year since its inception in 1954, with the exceptions of 1961 and 1978.
In an unusual twist, the elite athletes are also required to compete in a series of middle distance races in a track meeting held in the same Estadio dos Coqueiros on 2 January or forfeit 50% of their 10km monies.
Norrie Williamson for the IAAF
1. Stanley Biwott (KEN) 28:31
2. Yenew Alamirew (ETH) 28:34
3. Edwin Kipyego (KEN) 28:39
4. Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 28:43
5. Simon Cheprot (KEN) 28:44
6. Kinde Ayalew (ETH)2356000 28:48
1. Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 32:10
2. Flomena Daniel (KEN) 32:23
3. Pauline Njeru (KEN) 32:59
4. Sofia Abebe (ETH) 33:02.
5. Ruti Aga (ETH) 33:13
6. Perine Nenkampi (KEN) 33:37