Baaru, Lodepa race to Lewa history, Kipchoge impresses


Philemon Baaru crosses the line to win his record fourth men 42km title on Saturday. ...
Philemon Baaru crosses the line to win his record fourth men 42km title on Saturday. PHOTO/Courtesy

Philemon Baaru and Fridah Lodepa used the mastery of a course they know like the back of their hands to storm to history books with record fourth victories as the men and women’s 42km races unfolded during the 17th running of the Safaricom Lewa Marathon on Saturday.

Baaru who reclaimed the title he lost last year after injury forced him out at the 35K mark breast the tape in 2:22:42 and Lodepa matched his feat by trumping the women’s field in 2:48:13.

Two-time London and Berlin marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge warmed up for his assault for the Olympics title by finishing fourth in the men’s half marathon in a race won by Peter Wambua in 1:05:06 as Ludian Mwangi took the women’s 21km in 1:15:53.

With biting cold enveloping most of the country with wintry conditions, the Lewa runners had the luxury of competing under the full glare of the sun in rough terrain that marks it out as one of the toughest courses on the planet.

Smarting from being forced out of last year’s event, Baaru returned to his Lewa throne after charging away from runners-up Paul Maina who clocked 2:24:23 over the last two kilometres to romp to victory by over two minutes.

Maina held on to take second ahead of the fast charging Peter Wahome who rounded the podium in 2:24:47.

“I trained hard after recovering from injury. The weather conditions were tricky but I I’m happy I won. My next mission is to break the marathon record,” the winner, perhaps overcome by the stirring emotion of making history overcame him.

If he is to come within the touching distance of Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record, he must slash a staggering five minutes of his 2:07:49 lifetime best set at the 2012 Kosice Marathon where he finished second.

The record of the 35 year-old who finished fourth at this year’s Linz Marathon (2:19:46) in France at Lewa now reads champion in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

-Lodepa unstoppable-

While Baaru kept the company of his closest challengers before injecting the turn of speed that left them in his slipstream for the victory, Lodepa was forced to dig deep to match his achievement in the women’s race.

It took a late lunge for the tape for the winner to overhaul the leader Mary Ng’endo in who ran 2:48:46 to miss out on the crown by 33 seconds in the closing stages of the showdown as Risper Lang’at led the closest challengers home for the third medal in 2:25:35.

“The race has been tough. I was not able to dominate as compared to other years. Mary was ahead of me until about the last two kilometres and that’s where I was able to overtake her.

“I’m hoping to repeat what I have done this year and win my fifth title next year because I have now mastered the course. My next mission is Kuala Lumpur Marathon which I am hoping to win.”

In the half marathons, Kipchoge who is the runaway favourite for gold in Rio to add to his Beijing 2008 silver and Athens 2004 bronze over 5000m added the stardust to the event but was not classified among the finishers since organisers said ‘he was running for fun.’

However, even without stepping out of first gear, the 2003 world champion in 5000m was still able to come fourth to underline his imposing form as the rest of the field got the best possible inspiration.

“It’s a good experience. I’m in the middle of my training for the Olympics. On Thursday I ran 40Km and after resting for one day running 21Km was tough.

“However, it’s a good build up for the Olympics. I am 50 percent ready for Rio and I will just continue with my normal training,” the World Marathon Majors champion said of his Saturday work out.

Wambua who was participating in Lewa for the third time attributed his success to consistency and hard work.

“The race was tough because the high altitude but I worked hard to the finish line. This is my third time I am participating in the Safaricom Marathon.

“The first time was in 2014 and I came in third. Last year I participated as well but was not able to finish the race but this year, I trained well and that’s why I won,” the third time lucky winner enthused.

In the ladies event, Mwangi was followed home by Pauline Wanjiku (1:16:44) and Emma Muthoni (1:16:58) in what turned out to be a thrilling battle for the minor podium positions long after the winner had dusted off her victory.

This year’s race attracted 1390 participants from over 28 countries including USA, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Finland, South Africa, Italy and host nation Kenya among others

SELECT RESULTS

MEN

  1. Philemon Baaru-2:22:42
  2. Paul Maina-2:24:23
  3. Peter Wahome-2:24:47
  4. Sammy Kurgat-2:25:08
  5. Paul Chege-2:25:46

WOMEN

  1. Fridah Lodepa-2:48:22
  2. Mary Ng’endo-2:48:46
  3. Rispet Langat-2:52:35
  4. Milliam Ebongon-3:01:38
  5. Dorice Tondorus-3:04:07

HALF MARATHON

MEN

  1. Peter Wambua – Team NNFT – 1:05:06
  2. Loitarakwai Lengusiri – Team Namunyak – 1:05:17
  3. Robert Mbithi – Team Selecta One – 1:05:42
  4. Eliud Kipchoge – Team Tusk – 1:06:13
  5. Nicholas Kamakya – Team Ntumburi – 1:06:31

WOMEN

  1. Ludian Mwangi – Team Mutunyi – 1:15:53
  2. Pauline Wanjiku – Team Subuiga- 1:16:44
  3. Emma Muthoni – Team NNFT – 1:16:58
  4. Nancy Kathure – Team Matunda – 1:19:09
  5. Betty Karambu – Team Matunda – 1:19:28

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Story By John Kyanda
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