Seoul, Korea — Amos Kipruto led a top-ten sweep for Kenya at the Seoul Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in the Korean capital on Sunday.
In a competitive race, the 25-year-old Kipruto pulled away after the 35th kilometre to claim a 2:05:54 victory, nine seconds clear of Felix Kipchirchir. It was a breakthrough run for Kipruto, who knocked more than two minutes from his previous best of 2:08:12 set last year in Rome.
For Kipchirchir it was also a lifetime best, eclipsing his 2:06:58 run which propelled him to victory at last October's Dong-A Marathon in Gongju.
Setting an ambitious sub-2:05 pace from the gun, a group of 11 quickly formed, and passed five kilometres in 14:45. That number was reduced by just two at 10 kilometres, reached in 29:43, still on target for a 2:05 finish.
The group held firm. Eight were still together at 30 kilometres (1:29:41), with seven remaining in contention at 35, where the clock read 1:44:39.
The next five-kilometre stretch would prove decisive with Kipruto making a move that the others couldn't match.
Kipruto reached the 40th kilometre in 1:59:14, five seconds clear of Felix Kipchirchir who in turn was two seconds ahead of Korir. Kipruto pulled ahead further still over the last two kilometres to collect the nine-second victory.
Mark Korir, winner at the 2015 Paris Marathon and in Frankfurt last October, was next across the line in 2:06:05.
Nobert Kipkoech, 24, also produced a breakthrough, clocking 2:06:07 for fourth, an improvement of more than three minutes on his previous best.
Three-time Seoul winner Wilson Loyanae, who lowered the course record to 2:05:13, was fifth on this occasion, clocking 2:06:07.
Further back, Jacob Kibet was sixth 2:07:33. Victor Kipchirchir (2:08:52) in seventh and Felix Kipchirchir (2:09:56) in eighth also dipped under 2:10.
-Agai holds off Bekele to take women's title-
The women's contest took even longer to unravel, and wasn't decided until the final two kilometres.
That's when Margaret Agai of Kenya pulled away from Ethiopia's 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.