Priscah Jepleting Cherono and Julius Chepkwony Rotich produced dominant performances to claim a Kenyan double at the 31st edition of the Venice Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (23).
Cherono improved her personal best to 2:27:41 to beat Ester Macharia Wanjiru by more than seven minutes while Rotich successfully defended his title in 2:10:22, beating Ethiopian Chala Adugna Bekele by 3:29 to become the third repeat winner in Venice after Salvatore Bettiol in 1986 and 1987 and Jonathan Kipkorir Kosgei in 2006 and 2007.
In the women’s race, Jepleting and Ester Macharia took the early lead, going through five kilometres in 17:27 and 10 in 35:18. But then Cherono began to pull away, building a 16-second lead by 15 kilometres (52:12) and extending it to 1:32 at the midway point (1:13:41).
Cherono maintained a 2:27 tempo across the famous Ponte della Libertà Bridge, passing 35 kilometres in 2:02:03, more than five minutes ahead of Macharia.
Cherono continued towards the finish unpressed to make a substantial improvement on her previous personal best of 2:29:08 set in Enschede last April. She scored her second marathon win on Italian soil after finishing first in Florence last November in 2:31:34.
“I am happy that I improved my personal best from last year,” Cherono said. “At 40 kilometres I saw that I could improve my personal best. I hope to return here next year and improve my record.”
Wanjiru was a distant second in 2:35:15.
Confident defence for Chepkwony
The men’s race set off at a fast pace. A seven-man group formed by Chepkwony, Francis Ngare, Ishmael Kalalee, Titus Kwemoi Masai, Bekele, and brothers Richard and Bernard Bett breezed through the opening five kilometres in 15:14 and the next five at nearly the same pace, passing the 10-kilometre mark in 30:26.
My midway, the lead pack was whittled down to four, with Ngare, Rotich, Kalale and Masai going through in 1:04:19, still well inside a sub-2:09 pace.
Rotich and Masai then broke away from Ngare to build a 22-second gap in San Giuliano’s Park, reaching 30 kilometres in 1:31:36. Soon after Bekele closed the gap to catch Ngare and move into third.
Rotich forced the pace as he ran across the Ponte della Libertà, reaching 35 kilometres in 1:46.57 and increasing his lead over Bekele and Masai to more than two minutes.
Rotich began to tire at 40 kilometres when he had to face the 14 bridges that cover the course’s final two kilometres. The faster early pace took its toll but Rotich still managed to pull off a comfortable win.
“I knew that I could repeat my win from last year,” said Rotich, who nabbed his second marathon win of the year after a victory in Geneva in May. “I received strong support along the course and I enjoyed this race.”
The father of two is already eager to take a third victory next year. “I want to return to Venice next year with my kids,” he said.
Bekele was a distant second in 2:13:51. Further back, Masai was third, clocking 2:15:34.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 Julius Rotich Chepkwony (KEN) 2:10:22
2 Adugna Bekele Chala (ETH) 2:13:51
3 Titus Masai (KEN) 2:15:34
1 Priscah Cherono Jepleting (KEN) 2:27:41
2 Ester Macharia Wanjiru (KEN) 2:35:15
3 Ivana Iozzia (ITA) 2:37:04