Kenya’s Peter Kiplagat and Ethiopia’s Askale Alemayehu won the men’s and women’s titles at 39th Rock ’n’ Roll Madrid Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, crossing the line in 2:11:44 and 2:33:08 respectively on Sunday (24).
With the gun going at an ideal eight degrees Celsius, the early pace in the men’s race was set by pacemaker Thomas Kiplagat, who led a large leading group through a 10km split of 31:17.
Despite that modest early pace, one of the favourites Kenya’s Jafred Chirchir Kipchumba had already lost ground as his recent effort at the Barcelona Marathon held barely six weeks ago seemed to take its toll.
With Kiplagat sharing the pacesetting duties with fellow Kenyan Justus Kangogo, the 10-strong leading pack went through halfway in 1:05:11, as good as eliminated any chance of improving on the course record of 2:09:15 as the Madrid Marathon’s second half is considerably tougher than the first one.
Among the leaders at this stage was Ethiopia’s Halimichael Assefa, with no less than eight Kenyans running on his shoulder, led by Peter and Amos Kiplagat, Nicholas Kipkemboi, Alphonce Kigen and Patrick Cheruiyot.
By the 25km checkpoint, Assefa began to fade and the main group whittled down to six Kenyans, which stayed together for another 13 kilometres before the eventual winner Peter Kiplagat launched a fierce attack some 38km into the race to quickly open a gap over his five compatriots.
Kiplagat reached the 40km mark in 2:04:59 and had a six-second advantage on Cheruiyot, who himself was another seven seconds ahead of Kigen.
It briefly seemed that Cheruiyot would be able to catch Kiplagat but the 32.year-old leader managed to keep his compatriot at bay and cross the finish line in 2:11:44 with Cheruiyot six seconds in arrears.
Kigen completed a clean sweep of the men’s medals for Kenya by coming home third in 2:12:17.
Kiplagat, who has a 2:09:43 career best from last year's Rennes Marathon, commented, “It’s true that the early pace was not too fast but the tactic proved to be right as the closing kilometres are really difficult. With four kilometres to go, I unleashed my change of speed and realized all the others could not respond.”
The top women were perfectly paced throughout by Kenya’s Tom Mutie, who passed the 10km mark in 36:10 and the halfway point in 1:14:57 closely followed by Kenyan trio of Monica Jepkorir, Vivian Jerono and Nancy Kiprop plus the Ethiopian tandem of Askale Alemayehu and Abebech Tsegay.
Shortly afterwards, Tsegay and then Jepkorir began to lose ground and the leading pack was reduced to three, Alemayehu, Jerono and Kiprop.
Alemayehu. 24th at last month’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, then found she was out on her own by 34 kilometres, always running behind Mutie as both Kenyans started to struggle badly, before winning in a personal best of 2:33:08, improving by just over a minute.
Tsegay, who didn’t seem to have any chance of making the podium at the 35km point, overtook the tiring Kenyans in the latter stages of the race to finish a distant second in 2:40:33 with Jerono third in 2:42:22.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF