Kirui reigns as peerless Kiplagat defends Chicago Marathon

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Abel Kirui of Kenya wins the men's race at the Bank ...
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Abel Kirui of Kenya wins the men's race at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP TASOS KATOPODIS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Two-time World champion Abel Kirui turned back the hands of time in a titanic contest of ages to dethrone Dickson Chumba while peerless Florence Kiplagat majestically held on to her women’s crown as Kenya celebrated the double at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon.

Kirui, the Berlin 2009 and Daegu 2011 gold winner, soared to his first World Marathon Majors victory outside the Worlds in an official time of 2:11:22 to announce his emphatic return to form after four injury-plagued seasons since he won silver at the London 2012 Olympics.

But he was chased all the way to the tape by Chumba who finished only two seconds behind in a gripping climax to the race over the last two kilometres as Gideon Kipketer rounded the podium.

In the women’s showdown, Kiplagat motored away from the competition after 3o kilometres to retain her title in 2:21:34, over two minutes clear of compatriot and another two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat with Valentine Kipketer sealing the Kenyan 1-2-3.

“So great, unbelievable, amazing, amazing, amazing. I’m so excited and I’m in tears. My main goal is to win London. I need to do something in London,” the ecstatic Kirui who broke into a jig after his landmark victory said in the afterglow of his triumph.

With 40,000 runners lining up for the start in beautiful sunlight in the windy city, the elite men’s field went through 10K in 32:04 with a pack of 20 runners led by Gideon Kipketer at the front with Ethiopia’s Abayneh Ayele and Koji Gokaya of Japan paying close attention.

Two-time World champion, Kirui and Ayele started weaving back and forth as the runners injected a brisk 4:54 for the eighth mile that was the fastest of the opening exchanges.

Paul Lonyangata who was unsettled by the slackening pace then took over, crossing the 15K fluid station in 47:42 as he strung out the field with the leading group whittled down to 11 as they approached the half way mark.

The competitors went through 21.1K in 66:50, erasing any possibility on an assault on world record holder Dennis Kimetto’s 2:03:45 course record set in 2013 following the organiser’s decision to ditch rabbits last year. Kimetto was a late withdrawal from Sunday’s race.

At the 23rd kilometre Kipketer who was eyeing a maiden World Marathon Majors victory, injected a surge to string out the race once more as a potentially explosive second half of the race started to take shape.

He led through 25K in 1:18:44 with Kirui who has never won a Majors city marathon and was returning to action after an injury-plagued three seasons since winning silver at the London 2012 Olympics, Lonyangata, Ayele and titleholder Chumba coming through in that order after him.

The Beijing Olympics 10000m bronze winner and 2:07 marathoner, Micah Kogo and Elkanah Kibet were five seconds adrift as Stephen Sambu hauled himself back into contention.

With no hope of anyone winning a time bonus that had been set at 2:08:00, 12 men were still in contention at 30K that was passed in 1:34:57 in what was now a gritty tactical battle with Kirui, Gideon Kipketer, Chumba and Lonyangata eventually breaking away from their challengers to set up another Kenyan podium shut out.

With 1:53 on the clock it was Chumba who was bidding to become the first man to hold on to the Chicago title for the first time in a decade was running shoulder to shoulder with Kirui with Kipketer right behind.

Chumba then went in front with Kirui in hot pursuit as Kipketer was dropped when the clock hit 2:00 with 3.2K to go in the race. Kirui then eased ahead, grimacing as he tried to power away from the champion who held on.

The 34 year-old then pulled away from the 29 year-old who as they approached the final hill before powering away but Chumba refused to give up his crown with 200m to go.

It was breathless but the elder man still had it with 100m to go before delivering his belated

-Kiplagat master class-

In contrast, the chase for the women’s title dropped down to six inside the opening 15K where Kenyans with the champion at the fore front wasted little time and effort to take charge of proceedings from the onset.

Paris Marathon winner, Visiline Jepkesho crossed 10K at 33:29 in the lead with defending titleholder Florence Kiplagat, two-time world champion and namesake, Edna Kiplagat as well as Purity Cherotich Rionoripo fronting a lead pack of seven.

Jepkesho led through 15K in 50:10 with the Kiplagats, Rionoripo, Ethiopia’s Yebrqual Melese and Valentine Kipketer following suit.

There was no significant change at halfway that was hit in 70:29 with the champion Kiplagat leading her namesake as Jepkesho dropped to third ahead of Kipketer, Rionoripo and Melese.

Rolling steadily, the six clocked 1:23:51 at 25K that was well inside the 2:21:31 finishing pace.

Shortly before the 30K mark, the champion made her move, moving to the front as they approached the city centre with Melese in tow before she dropped another burst of acceleration to steer clear of her rivals with a big lead of 1:44:00 on the clock.

She then assumed complete control of race with no other woman within touching distance of the two-time Berlin Marathon winner.

Both winners are coached by Italian Renato Canova, who is also China’s national cross country coach.



  1. Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:11:23
  2. Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:11:26
  3. Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:12:20
  4. Paul Lonyangata (KEN) 2:13:17
  5. Stephen Sambu (KEN) 2:13:35
  6. Abayneh Ayele (ETH) 2:13:52
  7. Takuya Fukatsu (JPN) 2:13:53
  8. Diego Estrada (USA) 2:13:56
  9. Koji Gokaya (JPN) 2:14:34
  10. Elkanah Kibet (USA) 2:16:37


  1. Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:21:32
  2. Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:23:28
  3. Valentine Kipketer (KEN) 2:23:41
  4. Purity Rionoripo (KEN) 2:24:47
  5. Yebrgual Melese (ETH) 2:24:49
  6. Atsede Baysa (ETH) 2:28:53
  7. Serena Burla (USA) 2:30:40
  8. Agnieszka Mierzejewska (POL) 2:32:13
  9. Sarah Crouch (USA) 2:33:48
  10. Alia Gray (USA) 2:34:00


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