For the fourth year running, Kenyan runners did the double and won both the men’s and the women’s titles at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, with Luka Chelimo and Sharon Cherop triumphing at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (1).
Chelimo Kipkemoi, who turned 36 last week, was a surprising winner considering he was racing his third Marathon in little more than two months – having finished second in the Kuala Lumpur Marathon in September and then third in the Jakarta Marathon in October – but his strength was an advantage in the stifling hot and humid conditions and he won in 2:15:00.
Making his win even more impressive, the Kenyan inadvertently missed out on getting placed among the elite racers in front of the 11,000-plus runners and was part of the massed start, crossing the line approximately 35 seconds after the gun had gone.
Despite never having broken 2:10 in his prolific career – his best is 2:10:11 from the 2010 Chunchon Marathon and Singapore was his 29th Marathon – Chelimo has also proved himself adept at winning races in difficult conditions or where tactics come into play. He won three of his six Marathons in 2011 and two of his five outings over the classic distance last year.
He came home 26 seconds in front of his better-known compatriot Eliud Kiptanui to keep the Singapore men’s title in Kenyan hands for the 12th successive year. Mike Mutai finished third in 2:15:41 to complete a Kenyan clean sweep of the men’s podium.
A six-man group went through the halfway point in 1:08:12, with Chelimo running on his own 33 seconds adrift. Kiptanui and Kenya’s 2007 IAAF World Championships gold medallist, and two-time winner in Singapore, Luke Kibet, then started to push the pace and were out on their own in front from just after 25km for the next 10 kilometres.
However, Chelimo gradually reeled them in and took the lead at around the 38km point. He had a 13-second lead at 40km, passed in 2:07:44, and continued to widen the gap all the way to the finish line.
"Being my first win at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, I am extremely happy to have clinched this and will use my winnings to pay for my children’s education,” said Chelimo.
Kibet had a torrid time over the last five kilometres and drifted back to fourth in 2:17:14 while Bahrain’s Aadam Ismaeel Khamis, who holds his country’s national record with 2:07:59, was fifth with 2:17:47.
Cherop, the 2011 World Championships bronze medallist and 2012 Boston Marathon champion, lived up to her billing as pre-race women’s favourite by winning in 2:41:12.
Spectators at the finish were treated to a thrilling finale as Cherop just out-sprinted Ethiopia’s Debre Godana, who was given the same official time.
Electronic gun times separated the two runners by less than a second with Cherop clocking 2:41:11.04 to Godana’s 2:41:11.71.
"The race was so close and I was breathing so hard towards the finish, but I am so happy that my strategy to sprint only when I was close to the finish line worked," reflected Cherop.
Close behind the leading pair was Russia’s Alina Prokopeva. The 28-year-old 10,000m and Half Marathon silver medallist at the 2013 World University Games crossed the line in 2:41:16 to take third place in Singapore for the second consecutive year.
The leading trio were out on their own from just after 30km after separating themselves from what had been an eight-woman leading pack. They then ran together until the final few hundred metres.
Despite being caught short for speed compared to her two African rivals, Prokopeva can look back on her run with pride.
The tough conditions meant that Cherop was more than 18 minutes outside of her best of 2:22:28, Godana more than 13 minutes down on her career best, but the Russian was less than three minutes slower than her one and only previous Marathon outing.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF