Kipruto, Agai triumph as Kenyans soar in Seoul
Kenyans left an emphatic impression in Seoul, South Korea as Amos Kipruto led compatriots to a top 10 sweep of the Seoul Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday.
Kipruto who was racing in only his third marathon ran 2:05:54, knocking more than two minutes off his previous best of 2:08:12 set last year when he clinched the ACEA Rome title.
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Second-place finisher Felix Kipchirchir, who crossed the tape nine seconds behind Kipruto also ran a lifetime best, eclipsing his 2:06:58 run which propelled him to victory at last October’s Dong-A Marathon in Gongju.
Frankfurt and former Paris Marathon champion Mark Mutai Korir (2:06.05) and Nobert Kipkoech (2:06.07) took third and fourth places as three-time Seoul winner Wilson Loyanae, who lowered the course record to 2:05:13, camefifth on this occasion, clocking 2:06:07.
“It really feels good to set a personal best below 2:06. I can’t express how happy I am with myself, this is more than a victory to me. I did my preparations well after I came from Dubai. I knew I would do something good after setting a PB of 1:27 at the 30km mark.
“I knew I need to get milage and I started working on speed and doing long runs alongside Dickson Chumba who was preparing for Tokyo Marthon,” Kipruto, the freshly minted champion told Citizen Digital.
In his debut last year, Kipruto introduced himself to the world by winning in Rome whose edition for this year will be held on April 2.
His Italian Coach Claudio Berardelli was elated by Kipruto’s performance, revealng he had entered him for the Seoul Marathon to test his steel in a race against elites at a faster course.
“It’s a positive performance but we have to remain realistic since this is his third performance. This shows that he is not only talented but also committed in his career.
“I belive Amos has a lot to show and we target to go a notch higher. We shall see if he will be selected for the IAAF World Athletics Championships in London though I doubt if he is thinking about that,” Berardelli said.
The women’s contest took even longer to unravel, and wasn’t decided until the final two kilometres. That’s when Kenya’s Margaret Agai pulled away from Ethiopian Ashete Bekele Dido to win by five seconds in 2:25:52.
The race was off to a much more conservative start, with nine women reaching five kilometres in 17:59. With nobody willing to take command, the tempo remained steady on 2:30 pace, with nine still at the front through 15 kilometres, reached in 52:57.
The tempo picked up as the field approached the midway point. Seven remained in the lead pack at 20 kilometres (1:09:37), but was reduced to just four at 35 kilometres (2:01:50): Agai, Dido, Kenyan Mercy Jerotich and Ethiopian Aberu Mekuria.
The latter two dropped back over the next five kilometres leaving Agai and Dido to battle for the win. Agai succeeded, to maintain her notable record of finishing on the podium in each of her seven marathons. For the runner-up, her 2:25:57 run was the fourth fastest of her career.
Nearly a minute later, Jerotich edged Mekuria to round out the podium in 2:26:52, a 14-second improvement on her lifetime best for the 33-year-old.
Mekuria, the winner of February’s Hong Kong Marathon, clocked 2:26:55 for fourth.
Priscah Jepleting, a former cross country standout, was fifth in 2:28:59. Janet Jelagat and Bornes Jepkirui were sixth and seventh, clocking 2:29:04 and 2:29:40 to also come home in under 2:30.