But Kimeli decided to stay in the race and ran alongside Kimitei, Edwin Kiplagat and Evans Cheruiyot for the final few kilometres. Kimitei proved to have the stronger finish and stormed home to win in 1:00:54 as just five seconds separated the first four men to cross the finish.
Kimitei’s winning time took seven seconds off the race record with compatriots Edwin Kimutai Kiplagat and Timothy Kimeli following closely behind, sharing a time of 1:00:57.
“The race wasn’t at all easy,” said Kimitei, the African 10,000m silver medallist. “The hills were pretty tough but I kept enough strength for the finish.”
Just two athletes remained in contention before the half-way point of the women’s race as Sutume Asefa and Yvonne Jelagat reached 10km in 32:04, more than 20 seconds ahead of their nearest pursuers.
Asefa then gradually pulled away from Jelagat and the Ethiopian looked as though she was on her way to victory. But Jelagat found another gear in the final kilometre and reeled in Asefa, winning in 1:08:19 to take 48 seconds off the race record.
Asefa was second in 1:08:40, also finishing well inside the previous race record, while Kenya’s Marion Limo took third in 1:11:21.
“I’m pleased that I pulled it off and made my coach happy,” said Jelagat, whose previous best of 1:09:04 was set on her debut at the distance in Prague last month. “I had quite a lot of energy left at the end which meant I was able to speed up. When I saw Sutume was struggling, I seized the opportunity and it paid off.”
Jelagat broke the race record of Joyciline Jepkosgei who debuted here in 2016 with 1:09:07. Jepkosgei is now the world record-holder with her 1:04:52 run in Prague last month.
Although the Mattoni Karlovy Vary Half Marathon course is pretty rugged, the ‘city of colonnades’ offers plenty of opportunities to run fast. “Today we got to see just how fast Karlovy Vary can be,” said RunCzech Running League President Carlo Capalbo. “I’m delighted that the men and women have met our expectations and ran so competitively and fast.”
-Report by the IAAF
1 Wilfred Kimitei (KEN) 1:00:54
2 Edwin Kimutai Kiplagat (KEN) 1:00:57
3 Timothy Kimeli (KEN) 1:00:57
4 Evans Cheruiyot (KEN) 1:00:59
5 Shadrack Korir Kimining (KEN) 1:01:37
6 Donald Mitei (KEN) 1:02:11
7 Moussab Hadout (MAR) 1:02:20
1 Yvonne Jelagat (KEN) 1:08:19
2 Sutume Asefa (ETH) 1:08:40
3 Marion Jepkirui Limo (KEN) 1:11:21
4 Ayantu Gemechu (ETH) 1:11:49
5 Mercy Jerotich Kibarus (KEN) 1:13:44
6 Polline Wanjiku Njeru (KEN) 1:13:51
7 Olga Kotovska (UKR) 1:14:18