Kenya’s Cosmas Kiplimo Lagat regained the Zurich Maraton de Sevilla title he won on his marathon debut in 2014, improving his own course record at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race to 2:08:14 in the Spanish city on Sunday (21).
Kiplimo Lagat took 19 seconds of his own course record set two years ago. In 2014, he was signed up as a pacemaker before heading off on his own for a surprise win but this time he was accorded the number 1 bib.
Nevertheless, after some indifferent results due to a variety of injuries since his last visit to Andalucia, his second victory was almost as big an upset as his first.
In almost ideal weather for fast times, with the thermometer reading 12-13C and a slight breeze, right from the start it became clear that Kiplimo Lagat’s course record of 2:08:33 was under threat.
Paced by a triumvirate of pacemakers, led by Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko and Kenya’s Emmanuel Bett, the opening 10km was covered in 29:57.
A group of nine went through the halfway point in 1:03:36, still suggesting that not only a course record was on the cards but a tilt at the Spanish all-comers best of 2:06:13, set by Kenya’s John Mwangangi in Valencia last November, might also just be feasible if one of the group had enough in the tank to run a good negative split.
Over the next nine kilometres, the pace of the leaders still stayed on course for a time close to 2:07 although, one by one, the group at the front started to disintegrate.
By 30km, passed in 1:30:34, only a trio of Kiplimo Lagat along with his compatriots Shedreck Kiptoo Kimaiyo and Geoffrey Koech – who were later to finish 11th and drop out just after 35km respectively – remained together at the front.
Just before 34km, Kiplimo Lagat decided to shake off his rivals and quickly established a big lead, never to be headed.
He passed 40km in 2:01:30, 2:23 clear of his nearest rival and compatriot Hassan Omanga, and a time well under 2:08 was still possible. But without any challengers and clearly flagging over the final two kilometres, the Kenyan had to settle for just a course record and a personal best.
“It’s my second win here, I’m delighted," he said. "I ran conservatively during the first half and decided to push the pace afterwards. The circuit is very flat and suitable to get fast times. In addition, the crowd supported me all the way. I hope to return next year to get a hat trick of victories."
Castillejo on his way to his fourth Olympics
Behind him, Spain’s experienced international Carles Castillejo came through strongly over the final seven kilometres, having been 10th at 35km and fourth at 40km, to finish second in 2:11:29 to claim the Spanish national title and guarantee a place on Spain’s Olympic team.
Castillejo, now 37 and whose time in Seville was the second fastest of his career, has had a consistent if unspectacular international career which has included nine appearances at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The arguable highlight of Castillejo’s career came more than a decade ago when he got the 2004 IberoAmerican Championships 3000m silver medal. In Rio later this year he will be looking to improve on his 24th-place finish in the marathon at the London 2012 Olympics.
“Before competing today, my only doubt was whether Seville was going to be my last marathon ever or the penultimate one," said Castillejo. "Happily, I’ll be able to have a perfect farewell to my (international) athletics career by contesting my fourth Olympic Games next summer in Rio de Janeiro.
"When (2006 European 5000m champion) Jesus Espana caught me by halfway, I hesitated a bit but my experience at the event finally played in my favour and could win the title," he added. "I’m surprised because I’ve finally been second."
Morocco’s Spain-based veteran Hassane Ahouchar, 41, finished third in Seville in 2:11:39 while Espana finished sixth on his marathon debut in 2:11:57.
Paula Gonzalez got plenty of cheers from the local crowd when she won her debut over the classic distance in 2:31:18, just eight seconds in front of Morocco’s Koutar Boulaid.
A group of African athletes set the early pace in the women’s race as the Kenyan trio of Miriam Wangari, Rael Jepyator and Eunice Jeptoo, plus Ethiopia’s Roman Mengistu, went through the first 10km in 35:30, which put them on schedule for a sub-2:30 final time.
Surrounded by a group of male athletes in addition to the official pacemakers, they reached halfway in 1:14:15 with Gonzalez and Boulaid more than a minute in arrears at that point.
Jeptoo broke away from her three rivals at the front shortly before the 30km mark, reached in 1:45:45, and with 12km to go she had a 19-second advantage on Mengistu and a massive 1:37 over Jepyator, with Gonzalez and Boulaid another 13 seconds further back.
But Gonzalez – with Boulaid in close attendance – ran down Jeptoo between 31 and 37 kilometres, taking the lead with five kilometres to go while still closely followed by the Moroccan.
“Today my long-standing dream of getting an Olympic spot came true," said an ecstatic Gonzalez. "I didn't feel good at the beginning, but then I was able to narrow the gap on the leaders and catch them. The last couple of kilometres were so emotional for me. I’m over the moon now, I can’t ask for more."
Spain’s Estela Navascues came through to finish third in 2:32:49. An estimated 13,000 runners took to the roads of Seville on Sunday.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF