Kenya’s Lucy Murigi successfully defended her senior title at the IAAF/WMRA World Mountain Running Championships in Andorra on Sunday (16), while Robert Chemonges led a Ugandan 1-2-3 in the senior men’s race.
With the championships held in Andorra for the first time, the senior runners were greeted with a sometimes steep but generally fast course over 12km with 1028m ascent. Although mainly uphill – these championships alternate year by year between up-only and up-and-down – it contained 100m of elevation drop and the terrain was a mixture of forest trail, mountain path, gravel tracks, stony paths and meadow.
Murigi, who had come into the race having retained her title at the high-class Sierre Zinal mountain race, quickly established a lead, reaching the midway checkpoint at 4.72km in 26:25 with a margin of 25 seconds over compatriot Viola Jelagat and Austria’s six-time champion Andrea Mayr.
Uganda’s Patricia Chepkwemboi was following 14 seconds behind, three seconds ahead of Britain’s Emily Collinge, who was runner-up in 2015.
Murigi, who won by 78 seconds last year, was able to extend her lead on the subsequent slight descent and final climb, reaching the finish in 1:04:55 at Forn de Canillo cable car lift 65 seconds clear.
Switzerland’s Maude Mathys, who won the European title this summer, covered the second half almost as quickly. Moving up from seventh at the first checkpoint, 29 seconds behind Jelagat, she took silver 26 seconds ahead of Jelagat, who earned bronze.
Next in and 12 seconds behind was Chepwemboi ahead of Czech Republic’s Kristyna Dvorakova.
Mayr, who had won every uphill-only staging of these championships since 2006, was finally beaten, drifting back to sixth, more than two-and-a-half minutes behind the leader.
With Joyce Njeru in 13th, Kenya comfortably won the team gold. Led by Collinge in seventh and Sarah Tunstall in 10th, Great Britain took silver from bronze medallists France.
“It was not an easy race because there were many strong runners from around the world,” said Murigi, who boasts a half marathon PB of 1:10:52. “From the first kilometre to two kilometres I was feeling strong and so I pushed until the end. I am very happy to be a winner.”
Mathys improved from fourth last year, despite suffering with an ankle injury in the build-up.
In the men’s race, the eventual first three – Chemonges, Joel Akeyo and defending champion Victor Kiplangat – ran together most of the race, reaching the checkpoint at 4.7km in 22:39.
It was to prove a close battle to the finish with Chemonges and Akeyo pulling clear of Kiplangat. Chemonges, who won last year’s Dusseldorf Marathon in 2:10:32, won a neck-and-neck finish, clocking 55:37 for a one-second victory. Kiplangat was another 16 second back.
Chemonges is the sixth different Ugandan winner since 2009 and this was the fourth time in six years that the African nation had swept all three medals.
Joseph Gray, the 2016 champion representing USA in this event for the 11th consecutive year, was fourth in 57:08. Johan Bugge was next, followed by Britain’s Jacob Adkin.
Chemonges was particularly delighted to win after crossing the line first in 2016 only to be disqualified for receiving illegal pacing.
“The race was so hard I thought I would not win,” said Chemonges. “It was my friend from Uganda Joel Ayeko who was leading throughout.”
Behind runaway winners Uganda, Italy took team silvers as the experienced Francesco Puppi, Martin Dematteis and Bernard Dematteis placed seventh through to ninth. Norway earned bronze.
As with their senior counterparts, the Ugandan team dominated the junior men’s race. Dan Chebet took the 7.3km race with 576m ascent in 35:49 by 16 seconds from compatriot Matthew Chepkurui. Defending champion Oscar Chelimo, a further 53 seconds back, ensured Uganda hogged the medal rostrum. Britain’s Joseph Dugdale was next in, nearly four minutes behind the winner in 39:37 after a close battle with Romania’s Gabriel Bularda.
Behind Uganda’s perfect score, Great Britain picked up team silvers on 22 points, just one point ahead of Turkey.
In the first race of the day, Risper Chebet was the one who started the ball rolling for Uganda, retaining her title convincingly. She crossed the line in 41:19, 35 seconds ahead of Germany’s Lisa Oed, the silver medallist.
Betty Chebet made it two Ugandans on the podium, although she was some way back in 43:07. Next in were two Italians, Alessia Scaini and then Angela Mattevi, whose efforts succeeded in pushing Uganda to within six points in the team stakes (12 to 18). Romania was third on 29.
Canillo hosts first WMRA/IAAF Coaches Conference
As part of the growing relationship with the IAAF, the first IAAF/WMRA Coaches Conference was held on Saturday (15) on the eve of the event.
Entitled ‘Performance-limiting factors of mountain running’, it followed the successful format that the IAAF has previously used, mixing applied science and practical experience.
It was a highly successful evening event with more than 70 athletes and coaches attending to listen to Professor Ulrich Hartmann followed by a Q&A with six-time world champion Andrea Mayr and Andreas Sitz.
Paul Halford for the IAAF
1 Robert Chemonges (UGA) 55:37
2 Joel Okeyo (UGA) 55:38
3 Victor Kiplangat (UGA) 55:54
4 Joseph Gray (USA) 57:08
5 Johan Bugge (NOR) 58:25
1 Uganda 6
2 Italy 24
3 Norway 42
1 Lucy Murigi (KEN) 1:04:55
2 Maude Mathys (SUI) 1:06:00
3 Viola Jelagat (KEN) 1:06:26
4 Patricia Chepwemboi (UGA) 1:06:38
5 Kristyna Dvorakova (CZE) 1:07:20
1 Kenya 17
2 Great Britain 39
3 France 49
1 Dan Chebet (UGA) 35:49
2 Matthew Chepkurui (UGA) 36:05
3 Oscar Chelimo (UGA) 36:42
4 Joseph Dugdale (GBR) 39:37
5 Gabriel Bularda (ROU) 39:54
1 Uganda 6
2 Great Britain 22
3 Turkey 23
1 Risper Chebet (UGA) 41:19
2 Lisa Oed (GER) 41:54
3 Betty Chebet (UGA) 43:07
4 Alessia Scaini (ITA) 43:30
5 Angela Mattevi (ITA) 44:08
1 Uganda 12
2 Italy 18
3 Romania 29