Kenya’s Duncan Koech didn’t need to be at his best to fulfil his role as race favourite at the Nordea Riga Marathon. His winning time of 2:15:35 was only the ninth-best run of the 14 Marathons he’s completed but it was sufficient to take the honours at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (19).
However, perhaps his slow mark – although it shaved 13 seconds off the course record – can be attributed to the fact that barely three weeks ago the 31-year-old finished third in Dusseldorf in 2:09:10, little more than a minute outside his lifetime best of 2:07:53 set last autumn when finishing third in Cologne.
Koech’s win in the Latvian capital was the third of his career after winning the Hannover Marathon in 2008 and then the Bucharest Marathon two years later.
With temperatures well into the mid-20s, the front runners went through the halfway point in 1:06:41, but just before 25km Eritrea’s Tewelde Naam Weldeyohans surged and broke up the leading pack.
At 35km, which Weldeyohans passed in 1:50:23, the Eritrean had an advantage of 41 seconds over Koech.
Weldeyohans went through 40km in 2:05:07 and still had a lead of 34 seconds but he dramatically struggled in the final two kilometres, and was almost reduced to a gentle jog as Koech passed him and then sped away to win by 50 seconds.
Weldeyohans finished second in 2:16:25 while Kenya’s Peter Sitienei was third in 2:16:52.
Like Koech, Ethiopia’s Aberash Nesga was the favourite for the women’s race and she didn’t disappoint, heading off on her own just after 10km before winning in 2:40:31.
Ugandan record-holder Jane Suuto was a distant second in 2:46:33.
This was the 23rd edition of the race and the biggest one to date with more than 22,000 runners from 65 countries entered across several distances including a 5km, 10km, Half-marathon and the Marathon. The latter had 1007 finishers.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF